Stoking Intolerance:
Reply to The Partisan Review

by Sh. G. F. Haddad

Bruce Bawer, an American literary critic and author who lives in Europe where he practices same-sex marriage, has bashed and slashed Islam and Muslims in a ranting piece published by the Partisan Review (Volume 69 No. 3, posted in full at http://www.partisanreview.org/archive/2002/3/bawer.html) titled "Tolerating Intolerance: The Challenge of Fundamentalist Islam in Western Europe."

"Tolerating Intolerance" is from the same deep well of ignorantia and Islamophobic bigotry we witnessed from a Florida Baptist pastor a few months ago. Put ignorance in Latin because Bruce Bawer is a genteel ignoramus who writes about Marcel Proust and French literature whereas Jerry Vines is more of a redneck, a mean honest idiot, direct and brutal in his hate-mongering. The other needs more words because of his self-perception as an American man of the world, something like the cultured British colonialist (literarily reincarnated by V.S. Naipaul, Islamophobe emeritus). Add to this, Bawer's crypto-religious conviction that the deed of the people of Lot - upon him peace - is a civilizational value.

It is a sign of the times that this Community of Islam has to justify itself of charges of injustice and waywardness by a militant gay advocate who is loud and proud to hail from a nation responsible for daily Ground Zeros in Palestine, daily bombings of civilian Iraq (after funding and arming its leader up to and after his invasions of Iran and Kuwait), smashing to pieces Afghanistan in search of a single man still on the run, Chechen bloodbaths, and so forth. Then they wonder whence the rage and why the street celebrations.

Bawer builds up impressions from timorous glimpses rather than investigation. He "for some time lived only a few blocks from the imposing Islamic Center" at 96th Street in Manhattan but never went in for first-hand knowledge. In Amsterdam he "resided for a time in a neighborhood - the Oud West - where [he] grew accustomed to the sight of women in chadors pushing baby carriages past shops with signs in Arabic. A few doors from [his] flat, a huge Turkish flag flew over the entrance to the neighborhood center." He never went in there, he says, because the men "scowled back" at him when he "peered inside."

(A Belgian first cousin of mine in his twenties, a non-Muslim, confided to me a couple of years ago that he felt rage at the sight of veiled women "pulling together their robes with temper" at their mutual approach in the Brussels city streets. "I feel like tearing it all down!" I told him there was nothing behind except a mother or a daughter who are used to their robes and harm no-one, and who might be just as startled at certain sights of black leather and studs... Then I mentioned the famous hadith: "Counsel me in surrendering to God! Reply: - Do not be angry." His problem, like Bawer's, had little to do with Islam. This was a long conversation and I wish him well. I might mention the controversial statement of the late savant of al-Azhar University, Egypt, Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazzali - Allah have mercy on him: "The face-veil in the West is an impediment to inviting Westerners to Islam.")

Bawer claims that when he moved to Western Europe "fundamentalist Islam became a daily reality for me." In what, may we ask, did this horrifying experience consist? Auto-da-fés?[1] Guillotines and lynchings? Racial slurs, religious slurs, sexist slurs? Of all this there is more than plenty in his own backyard. But is the inhuman slave trade all there is to know of transatlantic history? No, that would be a caricature. Similarly, Bawer's brush of supposed intolerance in Europe is a caricature that smacks of intolerance. Not that he follows up with actual examples of fundamentalism. After the "scowling back" to which Bawer was cruelly subjected, the reader is hard put to find in what way exactly the innocent American was fundamentalized day after after day.

"Curious about my new neighbors, I did some reading." (A Victorian off-line of waspish complicity worthy of "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner?") Then Bawer reads, not the literature of Turks and Moroccans, even less the sacred texts of Islam, (or at least the Lettres Persanes of Montesquieu) but - hear this - *statistics* about immigration trends in the Netherlands. This from a self-celebrating author who goes on and on about the life and works of an over-exposed dead high society Frenchman in the deepest details imaginable. As for Islam, its civilization, its people, they can all just be numbers in a Partisan Review article. Let them have brioche.

Bawer then produces the damning evidence: "Most people of non-Dutch origin were fundamentalist Muslims, and most, even after years or decades in the Netherlands, remained largely unintegrated." So there is fundamentalism in Europe because most immigrants are fundamentalists. That was simple. This explains the daily fundamental stuff that was going on and the justified, righteous outrage of this Marie-Antoinette.

What Bawer really means by unintegration and fundamentalism becomes clear through his solipsisms, of which there are, believe you me, plenty. "Moving among the native Dutch, whose public schools teach children to take for granted the full equality of men and women and to view sexual orientation as a matter of indifference, I felt safe and accepted. Yet many Muslim youngsters..." You see, Bawer moved to Europe because he can exhibit his gay lifestyle there in a way he never could even in his "New York, [supposedly!] the world's most multicultural city." He needs to feel safe and accepted because he is different. He wants to make all Europe safe for outlandish mores and apostasy. So when he sees the new face of Europe - new generations of *more different* Europeans being formed by Abrahamic values that reject drugs, prostitution, and same-sex intercourse as unhealthy and immoral, people who actually *practice their religion*, he is - to cite the verse about Lot's wife - petrified! But to fight the value system of incoming Muslims openly would be to concede defeat from the start. How can he effectively assassinate a philosophically superior character in Europe? Say they are too brown? Better: since the order of the day is Euro-sameness and the counter-face of anti-terrorism was opportunely grafted in by the new Churchill - "If you're not with us, you're against us" - accuse them of refusing integration. Better yet: call them the new Far Right, the neo-neo-Fascists!

And what integration? Europe's open-door policy does not have missionary cultural purposes at its roots but the quest for cheap labor. Only America thinks the whole world should be American, even if this zealotry originates in the French Revolution. On the other hand, Europe's moral decadence has reached such a low point that even its own thinkers view the Muslim influx as a welcome renewal of spiritual values. Those values have been waning precisely since the late 1700s. Integration *is* taking place, but in the opposite direction. It is Europe itself, according to its thinkers, that stands to gain from what Bawer protests so emotively.

The difference between the two views is as clear as the sun. Guénon and the French School, the British and other moderate thinkers on Islam leading to the two or three quoted by Bawer - including John Esposito - actually went through the effort of learning about the message that Islam brings. They know that most Muslims are not fundamentalists, that fundamentalism is a perversion, an abuse of power in a moral vacuum, of which no single religion is exclusively guilty. If such careful readers of Islam as the brilliant author of the arrow out article "Jewish Sakura" were to criticize unacceptable excesses within its ranks, Muslims should be the first to consider such criticism carefully. Bawer himself might wake up and smell the milk tea with cardamom; then he might wish to reconsider some of his views.

The problem is that this American critic thinks he has nothing to learn because he already knows all the statistics and has seen the world (New York, the Netherlands, Norway). You might tell him he knows nothing and is cut from the same cloth of intolerance and bigotry that he purports to denounce. That he is steeped up to his ears in scandalously prejudicial views of Islam - of religion as a whole - dictated more, perhaps, by his own program about values than by the truth. But there he is, foisting lies in The Partisan Review in the wake of a half-dozen semi-bestsellers, that Islamic schools "reinforce the Koran-based sexual morality learned at home - one that allows polygamy (for men), that prescribes severe penalties for female adulterers and rape victims (though not necessarily for rapists), and that (in the fundamentalist reading, anyway) demands that homosexuals be put to death." Then Mr. Bawer treats the reader to all kinds of criminal statistics connected to sex and gender. Perish the thought that such acts - honor killings, forced marriages, rapes - have only the most tenuous of links to Islam and would not be countenanced by a genuine Islamic justice system. Never mind that what he cites as a Qur'anic verse is nowhere found in the Qur'an.

As for Saudi Arabia and the Taliban, they are extreme cases that cause righteous outrage. But is it acceptable that an entire religion be demonized because of two zealots, one formerly built up by the US and the other still supported by them? (Look for my English translation of the Kuwaiti Shaykh Yusuf al-Rifaʿi's 1999 "Advice to the Ulema of Najd," slated for imminent publication in the US.) [LINK]

And what is worse, Mr. Bawer? Millenarian polygamy that is at the very root of the Judeo-Christian concept of a wholesome family and just society? Or same-sex marriage - your lifestyle - that the very same culture - your culture - considers at best decadent and, at worst, places somewhere around the seventh pit of hell? Yet you would have your Oslo commensals believe that homosexuality is part of their civilizing process, and Biblical tradition the outsider? From this side of the madness, it is evident that Mr. Bawer is an old hand at sidetracking any questioning of homosexualism and the current deconstruction of gender to mind-numbing slogans in the defense of liberal humanism against the extreme right. Any extreme right will do. Even if the process, this time around, leaves one a poorly informed, calumniating, character-genocidal Islamophobe. Did not the Serbian and Russian atrocities give every insect of a Slav the chance to pupate into a dirty little Stalin, gorging on Muslim blood and property? "Envy parading behind the mask of Justice is an ugly brute." (Charles Le Gai Eaton: King of the Castle) I am glad that this one does not, for now at least, have the power to enforce his convictions. Nor would I dream of sending the INS or any other state police to his door to harass him, although he advocates such despicable methods against Muslims in the West. Delation is still an acceptable thing in a certain Europe even if, thank you, "Protestant fundamentalism... hardly exists nowadays in that once strictly Calvinist country"!

As for the issues he raises, just to be clear: Islam, of the three Abrahamic faiths, is by far the most tolerant toward inverts - homosexuals - which it recognizes as an element of the society. Entire sections of Islamic law books define the mukhannath, the effeminate, and its kinds including the hermaphrodite, as well as the rulings that pertain to them in sexual segregation, prayer, inheritance, funerals and so forth, yes, even marriage. However, there is no attempt whatsoever to claim they are normal.

Islam no more rejects homosexuals than it rejects atheists, but it simply does not stand for the promotion of alien belief and behavior in its society. Bawer says: "Tolerance for intolerance is not tolerance at all"; more to the point, tolerance of the rights of the individual over and above the rights of the society is not tolerance at all but injustice. Traditional, mainstream Islam does possess the balance that, God willing, will save us all, but where are the responsible Muslim lawgivers and who is listening to them? Bawer says: "At stake, indeed, is Western civilization." We say: The world is shrinking by the minute, your fear is obsolete, and the way you phrase it is pure egotism; wake up! At stake is humankind.

A conclusion for Muslim readers: the above critique does not mean the Community in the West is not in need of a serious examination of conscience and a radical improvement in behavior. See the texts of the genuine Muslim thinker ʿAbd al-Hakim Murad available at < masud.co.uk > . In essence, his message is this: Whoever has ears to hear, beginning with fathers and husbands in the household and mosque imams and congregations, especially in Subcontinent and Arab quarters, you need to repent and return to true examplary behavior for humanity. Leave what you construed to replace Religion with your nationality and culture. Forced marriage is unIslamic. Islam is not about beating women and shouting Kafir at Trinitarians. Islam is not Chosen-People chauvinism nor Cro-Magnon machism. Stop calling down death upon your host countries. Show some dignity and stop biting the hand that feeds you. Quit your resentment of Allah's conduct of history. Islam in the European third millenium will be the way of tolerance and balance for humanity - as Allah intends it to be - or will cease to be. Since it can never cease to be, it means that the promise that Allah has made will come true: "He will replace you with others who love Him and whom He loves." This holds true with or without the men that parade as Islamic leaders in the West with libido dominandi in lieu of a soul. Allah can very well find pious servants deserving of being His fortunate friends among those who truly care for His suffering creation. They will inherit His earth, as stated in the Books of the three Faiths. At stake is humankind, whom God created and honored, and for whom He does not wish perdition.

Hajj Gibril
GF Haddad ©

[1] auto-de-fe: the burning to death of heretics (as during the Spanish Inquisition)

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