Phi Beta Cons

Salman Rushdie and the Left

Salman Rushdie, chastened from his miserable experience with Islamic fundamentalism, defends Western values of freedom, tolerance, and pluralism in a speech at the Center for Inquiry in New York City.  He denounces the cringing behavior of the West in confrontation with intimidation from Islam, and calls for a courageous solidarity that would force Muslims wielding threats and violence to back down.  His anti-Americanism may still be heard not far from the surface of his words, but still, he performs a useful service in articulating the problem that the Left  presents regarding Muslim culture.  Their cultural relativism and hatred for the West and for America, combined with their sentimentality about the Third World, leads them to excuse Islamic radicalism and to tolerate Islamic customs such as the veil and female genital mutilation.  (Rushdie also reveals that he feels “very close to George Bush.”)

But when Rushdie got a question asking why our schools don’t teach the greatness of Western civilization, the blindness of the Left came over him, too.  He attributed this to the fact that we for the most part don’t pay teachers enough, and not to the Western self-hatred that our educational systems have been cultivating for decades.  Furthermore, the schools have been teaching the very cultural relativism and the romanticisim about the Third World that Rushdie deplores. So Rushdie is willing to expose the Left now, now that he disagrees with it, but not to expose any of its sins committed while he was a full-hearted partisan.  Furthermore, he actually celebrates multiculturalism even now, and does not seem able to see the connection between multiculturalism and the subsequent loss of firmness in Western values that troubles him.


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