Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Righteous & Wrong": My Answer to Ruthven on Berman and Ali

1. Ruthven:

2. me:

Here's a key passage in this essay:

...Revisiting several well-known episodes in the Ramadan story, he (Berman) dwells on the famous television debate with Nicolas Sarkozy...when Ramadan refused to condemn outright the stoning of adulterous women, arguing instead for a "moratorium" on the practice followed by a comprehensive "debate." Berman sees the episode as a pivotal moment in Ramadan's career"

" Some six million people watched that exchange. A huge number of Muslim immigrants must have been among them--the very people who might have benefited from hearing a prestigious and articulate public figure speak with absolute clarity about violence against women. Ramadan was not up to it...The seventh century had suddenly appeared...A moment of barbarism."

Buruma...suggests...that Ramadan's position represents a stage toward secularization. By leaving a religious law for discussion without applying it, he is effectively dissociating religious doctrine from religious or social practice...a "moratorium" maintains orthodoxy while enabling the believer to live in a society governed by laicite.' (Olivier Roy) Roy's position is evidently based on the idea that consensus--one of the four canonical "roots" of Islamic law--is a precondition for change, a view Berman fails to consider...

In this passage from Ruthven's essay is, writ small, a flaw that pervades much of his argument. The issue is exactly the rationalization of Ramadan's refusal outright to condemn THE STONING OF ADULTEROUS WOMEN. The argument made by Ruthven, Buruma, Roy and Ramadan is that there is an efficacy in intra Muslim debate to end stoning rather than coming outright against it by a highly celebrated, influential Muslim voice. That rationale fits with another criticism of Berman by Ruthven: his ignoring the forces of kinship, clan and deep tradition--"custom"-- as sources for the barbarities of stoning and clitoral mutilation among others, all continuous with the utter, and virtually unimaginable, suppression of women. Both that rationalization and the highlighting of kin, clan and custom go as well to Ruthven's crticism of Hirsi Ali. Namely:

...Her story (in Nomad) may resonate with many able and intelligent women from Europe's immigrant communities who find themselves in similar situations. But it is not a path that all will wish to emulate. The power of clan and rooted in human affections as well as patriarchal authority...

So this is what these criticisms come to: one must be muted about stoning adulterous women, sotto voce, in the interest of promoting internal debate as a means to eradicate incrementally this barbarity.

This is preposterous. Who will debate? How amenable to reason and dispassionate argument are the stoners and their favourers? In Islam's tribal bowels where ignorance and superstition reign supreme--the concomitants of custom, kinship and clan--who is listening to, reading about, aware even, of Ramadan? This is the argument: debating seventh century barbarism. The stoning of adulterous women needs no sotto voce debate. Debating barbarity makes an incredible mockery of debating. These issues need strong, forceful voices of (charismatic, would help) leaders compellingly clear in their unambiguous refutation of these barbarities. Needed are international pressure and internal and external pressure and influence on regimes abetting such practices to end them. European Muslims must hear these compelling, outspoken, unequivocal voices.

Reformation must come top down where the masses aren't going to takes part in debates on barbarity, top down from governments, institutions, religious leaders, cultural leaders, educators, the press, intellectuals, politicians, generically anyone who can help shape people's attitudes and break the backs of clan, custom and kinship--generically the kinds of people a Hirsi Ali can reach.

For such a voice is Hirsi Ali's. If she can affect educated Muslim women in Europe and anywhere else her voice is heard and read, then she will have been successful in mitigating Islamism. How obtuse is the criticism of her that she provides no path to women trapped in the very bowels of custom, clan and kinship ridden societies, that all will not want to emulate her. Set a purpose and goal that Ali does not set for herself--she is writing for those with eyes and minds to read her--and then criticize her for not satisfying that extraneous purpose and goal.

Berman, not a Muslim of course, is another clear, compelling and unambiguous voice who does not shy away from hard and large questions and who calls the Islamofascist spade the Islamosfascist spade that it is.

What a contrast: Berman's and Ali's voices, each in their own way clarion clear and clarion calling as against the attenuated shuffling of a Ramadan, a Buruma, a Ruthven, a Garton Ash. To whom does trahison des clercs attach, indeed?

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