David Calling

The Liam O’Flahertys of Today

 

Time was when intelligent men and women in all countries and all walks of life used to write books and articles in praise of Soviet Communism. The phenomenon is well known by now, but it is still an abiding example of how easily wishful thinking triumphs over rationality. Those testimonies are perpetual reminders of the frailty of civilization, and the latest example that I have come across is I Went to Russia, by Liam O’Flaherty, published in 1931. Quite a decent vaguely free-thinking fellow, O’Flaherty had knocked about the world a bit. He didn’t lose all sense of reality in Russia but nonetheless without apparent irony could let drop phrases like “this great headquarters of the world revolution.” The book ends with an account of meeting Walter Duranty of the New York Times, who spouted, “Bolshevism is real religious antidote to the materialism of the twentieth century.” The Five Year Plan was going to make Russia “exceedingly prosperous.” They do not discuss Gulag.

Today, praise for sharia or Islamic law has the same function of surrendering to wishful thinking at the expense of rationality. If only non-Muslims were to allow sharia for Muslims living in their midst, according to this line, all would be well. In England, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Supreme Court have both recommended sharia. Quite a number of Muslims in European countries have obliged by proclaiming the areas where they live as enclaves under sharia, with punishments for those who infringe the code. So honour killings, female genital mutilation, polygamy, a ban on alcohol, and other dietary taboos are normalized. Extremist Muslims openly proclaim that this is the way to install the rule of Islam, predicting that they will be colonizing non-Muslim countries by the middle of the century.

“Why Sharia deserves a fairer hearing” is the title of an article published on the News page of the London Times by Ziauddin Sardar, a university professor in Britain. Why the newspaper of record should give over this space to a opinion piece is as mysterious as the Archbishop’s endorsement of Islamic law. Sardar takes up what he considers “a captivating book,” by one Sadakat Kadri. In the manner of those who once sympathized with Communism, he glosses over the facts. Sharia law is made to seem universal — the euphemism he uses is “interconnected.” Just as the wrongs committed under Communism had nothing to do with the ideology, so whatever is wrong in Islam has nothing to do with sharia. And just as there were always progressive aspects of Communism to be found somewhere, so Ziauddin Sardar holds up Morocco and Malaysia as countries with “new and exciting” changes in sharia. In Indonesia, he says, “humanistic principles” are replacing the politics of sharia. He does not discuss the regular killings of Christians there, or the firing of churches.

Exam question. Describe in your own words what unites the Liam O’Flahertys and Ziauddin Sardars of this world, and draw your conclusions.

David Pryce-Jones — David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Origins of Progressive Agony

What has transformed the Democratic party into an anguished progressive movement that incorporates the tactics of the street, embraces maenadism, reverts to Sixties carnival barking, and is radicalized by a new young socialist movement? Even party chairman Tom Perez concedes that there are “no moderate ... Read More
Elections

How Will the Senate Races Break?

How will the Senate races break? We have less public polling to go on than in recent years, so answering that question is harder than ever. But the news is more optimistic for Republicans than it was a month ago.   Waves and Breakers Four years ago, I projected in mid September that if “historical ... Read More
PC Culture

Warren Is a Fraud

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has been telling a story for years. It’s a deeply romantic story about her parents and their young love, fraught with the familial bigotry of an earlier time. Here’s how she told it this week in a video she released in preparation for her 2020 run: My daddy always said he ... Read More
U.S.

Two Minnesota Republican Candidates Assaulted

Two Republican candidates for state office in Minnesota have been physically assaulted in recent days, leading prominent Republican lawmakers to caution their Democratic colleagues against employing inflammatory rhetoric. Republican state representative Sarah Anderson was punched in the arm last week after ... Read More
Law & the Courts

A Christian Man Receives Justice

A good man’s legal ordeal is at an end. Yesterday, my friends and former colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom announced that former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran had reached a $1.2 million settlement, ending a case he brought after the city fired him for writing -- and distributing to a select few ... Read More