Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Douglas Murray's "Islamophilia": Book Review

Douglas Murray offers a brief but certainly timely overview of the problem with Western responses to Islam. Fearful of vitriol not to mention violence when anyone objects to the "religion of peace" being credited for a suicide bombing, an atrocity, or a backwards call for suppressing human rights, the reaction by the media, academia, publishers, celebrities, filmmakers, politicians, and even strident anti-religious dissidents in Murray's jaundiced but humanist perspective reveals "kid gloves" applied. Inconsistently and maddening, this reaction to Islamic action infuriates Murray, a veteran British journalist well-placed to dissect the follies of his Fleet Street peers as well as many prominent voices who lavish praise on an anti-humanist faith as fellow Westerners.

Their hypocrisy puzzles Murray. The likes of Justin Bieber on a March 2013 tour can pose as rebels in Western Europe but capitulate when they play in an Islamic nation. Similarly, Richard Dawkins excoriates the Jewish and Christian beliefs but soft-pedals when it comes to Islam. The embarrassing retractions of his colleague the outspoken Christopher Hitchens gain detailed coverage here, as do the honest complaints about the Qur'an originally uttered by Sebastian Faulks. Murray shows in the latter case how a quick but craven early warning system as a "pre-emptive backlash" signals a new kind of blowback protection as jittery journalists seek to shield themselves and publishers against the fear, unspoken as it may lurk, of violent retribution let alone boycotts and multicultural cant directed against anyone daring to criticize a book's statements attributed to a desert prophet's utterances from nearly fourteen centuries ago.

Melanie Phillips, the publisher of this in her emBooks imprint, earned her own share of opprobrium for her Londonistan a few years ago, and Murray as a like-minded observer incorporates current events, attesting to the speed with which this enterprise covers this topic. The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London, is reviewed, as is the election of Pope Francis I and the Benghazi attacks last autumn. One slight drawback is that with so many events to integrate into such a short book, this stimulates the reader to want much more insight and elaboration.

But, Islamophilia serves a purpose. It calls for equal, consistent, and principled treatment for Islam the same as afforded other beliefs which certainly earn their share of harsh treatment in the name of liberal critique and rational truth. Prominent critics as authors, creators, and speakers often condemn Israeli policies in Palestine, or the Crusades, inquisitions, and recent abuses by Christians, but when it comes to Islam they obediently turn cringing and fawning in the name of tolerance, diversity, and integration. They call for humanism and freedom from oppression, but they bow to Muslim sensibilities as somehow these are mightily offended in ways that apparently demand capitulation. The free pass given Islamic audiences, for Murray, reveals the double standard that leads to a gushing love and fulsome praise for ideas and practices that if another faith or ideology promoted them would receive justified contempt and demands for reform by Western, secular progressives.

In the sense of fair play, then, Douglas Murray calls our attention to this disparity. With wit, wryness, and acuity, Murray shows the West a face it may shrink from. As Murray notes from an Irish friend turned English resident, the truer test of integration and acceptance is when a outsider, newcomer, or immigrant finds him or herself having to put up with the same [*^$#] as everyone else in a diverse society. (Amazon US 6-18-13)

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