For a bibliophile, one of the joys of blogging is getting to review books. I actually don’t review a significant percentage of the books I get because I find them unreadable. This isn’t always an indictment of the books I receive. They may be exquisite examples of their genre, but they just don’t work for me.* Some books, however, are wonderful, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Douglas Murray’s Islamophilia : A Very Metropolitan Malady is one of those books.
Murray’s premise is a simple one: Western culture is caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of thought about Islam, both as an abstract religion and as a lifestyle force that a billion people around the world practice. Scylla is the fact that anything that doesn’t affirmatively praise Islam, its prophet, its practices, or its practitioners is designated as Islamophobia. Islamophobia differs from other phobias in a few ways. First, it implies an irrational fear of Islam, which is rather funny when you consider that committing acts of Islamophobia, either intentionally or unintentionally, is tantamount to signing your own death warrant — and I don’t mean that as a figure of speech. Salman Rushdie got real death threats, not poetic ones; and Theo Van Gogh got real death, never mind the predicate threats.
The Charybdis is that many people in positions of authority, rather than just falling silent about Islam have gone the opposite way and heap it with fatuous, extreme, and often extremely ignorant praise. Some do this because they hate Western culture (American, British, European, etc.) and will praise any doctrine, entity, person, or organization that is intent upon destroying the West; some because they are too ignorant to know better; some because they inadvertently spoke the truth about Islam and, to avoid death, must do more than just walk their statements back; some because they want to skip the death threats entirely and just get straight down to fawning over Islam; and some because they actually like a religion built around submission, misogyny, and war.
Murray offers examples of each class of Islamophile, whether in the world of politics, literature, or entertainment, all described in pithy, witty, pointed, and very accessible prose. Politics? Learn about former British PM Tony Blair, who converted to Catholicism, but nevertheless boasts that he reads the Koran daily “mainly just because it immensely instructive.” You don’t have to go as far as England to find fatuous politics at work in the world of Islamophilia. We’ve got plenty of Islamophilia in American politics, starting with George Bush’s oft repeated phrase about Islam being a “religion of peace” (and you’d better say that or we’ll kill you) and going through to CIA Director John Brennan’s manifest adoration for all things Muslim, including “Al Quds” (the place Israel and the Bible call Jerusalem).
When it comes to the world of the mind (or perhaps it’s more accurate to call it “the world of the mindless”), Murray talks about the intellectual corruption that sees the London Science Museum, the New York Hall of Science, and the California Science Center in Los Angeles all host a vast exhibit touting “1000 Islamic Inventions.” We all know about Arabic numerals (for which we are grateful, even if they did actually originate in India), but did you know that Muslims invented everything else? Flight? A Muslim invention. Cameras? A Muslim invention. And if you’re silly enough to think Erno Rubik invented the cube of that name, please disabuse yourself of that silly notion. Muslims invented that too. It’s one thing politely to avoid pointing out the paucity of Muslim contributions to the world of the mind; it’s another thing altogether to propagate gross falsehoods — but that’s what Islamophiles do.
Do I even need to point out about Hollywood? No. I won’t bother. Read the book and watch Murray slice, dice, and eviscerate the Hollywood crowd that, out of fear, keeps resurrecting Nazis or parading corporate monsters about, all the while pretending that there hasn’t been a serious existential threat to America since 1945.
Murray seems to reserve his greatest disdain for the literati, describing in quite embarrassing detail how such intellectual luminaries as Martin Amis and Sebastian Faulks backed down from criticizing (fairly mildly, one might add) Islam. They didn’t just say “we misspoke.” Nooo. When the long knives (or scimitars) were turned their way, these two “men of letters” became groveling sycophants who exhausted their impressive vocabularies heaping praise upon every aspect of Islam.
All these people are fools if they believe their slobbering love affair with Islam will protect them. Like Churchill’s famous appeasers, they’re hoping to delay the crocodile’s jaws, but they’re deluding themselves. Even saying complimentary things about Islam can be dangerous. In a hysterically funny, but still depressing, chapter entitled “Islamophilia is no defence,” Murray relates the history of Sherry Jones’ The Jewel of Medina, which was meant to be a nice book about Islam. Unfortunately, it made too many people aware of some habits Mohammed had that tend to rub at least some Westerners the wrong, with a child bride topping the list. After you’re done reading the chapter, you’ll also want to weep when you realize how little faith the West has in the values and virtues of its own culture.
Murray is a delightful writer. His prose is clear and assured; his wit pointed, but controlled; and his fund of knowledge satisfyingly vast — although what he knows and shares is inevitably depressing. I recommend this book wholeheartedly, all the more so because it’s a very user-friendly length. I read it in a couple of hours, despite my family’s constant interruptions.
It might interest you to know that Islamophilia is published by EMBooks, which is Melanie Phillips’ ebook press. Phillips writes regular about Islam and antisemitism in England. Read her non-fiction Londonistan if you want to have nightmares about the toxic combination of Islam and British Leftism. Although written a few years ago, the book is as applicable now as it was when originally published.
* An example of this — a really good book that I just couldn’t read — is Dakota Meyer’s Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, which he wrote with Bing West. It’s extremely well-written and very interesting. I’ve started it three times, but every time I get to that fatal day in Ganjigal, Afghanistan, the one that earned Meyer his Medal of Honor, I just can’t bear to read it. I seem to have exhausted my courage reading Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. I highly recommend the book, though, because I’ve read enough of it to know that the rest will be fascinating for people more courageous than I am.