Perplexed and Pessimistic
Timothy Garton Ash has a piece in the current New York Review of Books that strikes me as unusually perplexed and pessimistic (though it may be only an indication of how intractable the reality is).
Under the title, “Islam in Europe,” it is his review-cum-reflections of books by Ian Buruma and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (The latter is the Somali-born Dutch politician whose Dutch citizenship was revoked and then reinstated; but who has now left Holland for the United States.)
The most interesting passage of the article for me was the following:
Having in her youth been tempted by Islamist fundamentalism, under the influence of an inspiring schoolteacher, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is now a brave, outspoken slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist. In a pattern familiar to historians of political intellectuals, she has gone from one extreme to the other, with an emotional energy perfectly summed up by Shakespeare: “As the heresies that men do leave/are hated most of those they did deceive.” This is precisely why she is a heroine to many secular European intellectuals, who are themselves Enlightenment fundamentalists They believe that not just Islam but all religion is insulting to the intelligence and crippling to the human spirit. Most of them believe that a Europe based entirely on secular humanism would be a better Europe. Maybe they are right. (Some of my best friends are Enlightenment fundamentalists.) Maybe they are wrong. But let’s not pretend this is anything other than a frontal challenge to Islam.
Sounds rather like Pope Benedict in Regensburg:
In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion to the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.