A Muslim Apostate Sings the West's Praises
It's hard to describe a New Yorker's deep and passionate love for our great city. For me, it is like the love I have for a cherished family member. New York defines me. I have never wanted to be or live anywhere else. I have lived here all my life, and still it thrills me. It is everything possible in life, in love, in work, in play...full of endless possibilities. Ayn Rand summed it up when she wrote in The Fountainhead:
I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window - no, I don't feel how small I am - but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.
Yes. Which is why I was taken in by the latest book from the world's foremost scholar of Islam: Why the West Is Best. He, too, sees the great human achievement in this city.
In Why the West Is Best, Ibn Warraq uses New York City as a microcosm for the Western civilization that is in every sense -- intellectually, technologically, morally -- superior to the Islamic civilization that is challenging the West every which way nowadays.
He isn't just using New York as a metaphor. He sees it something like the way Ayn Rand described it in her unforgettable passage.
Ibn Warraq, in a similar way, celebrates New York as the crowning achievement of Western civilization: a place where artistic and intellectual and economic activity and every other kind of human enterprise is encouraged and enabled. He compares this civilization favorably (without any apology to the Western multiculturalists who are instrumental in our civilizational suicide) to the stagnant Islamic culture that has as its basis Islamic law; with its prohibition of music and representational art; its antipathy toward intellectual exploration; and its fatalism that spells death for any sense of real initiative, any impulse to create the beauty, the genius, and the sense of the sublime that Ayn Rand writes about so powerfully.
But what about slavery? What about colonialism? What about the usual laundry list of the evils of the West that America-hating leftists trot out at every possible opportunity? This is what they're learning in our own universities these days: that America and the West are the worst things that ever happened to this planet, and if we just gave up and gave it all back to the Native Americans, the world would be better off.
Ibn Warraq shows in Why the West Is Best that the sins of the West are common to the whole world: plenty of other cultures have histories of conquest and colonialism, as well as slavery and exploitation. Only in the Western Judeo-Christian context, however, did the principles of free speech and free inquiry develop to the point that longstanding societal and cultural practices could be questioned and ultimately rejected. Muslims took plenty of slaves, but only in the Western world did there ever arise an abolitionist movement. Muslim countries have been home to plenty of tyrants, but only in the West did free speech become a valued and protected principle, as one of society's foremost protections against regimes that could do whatever they wanted, no matter how much it outraged the will of the people.
As we saw in the Muhammad cartoon controversy and its aftermath, the Muslim world responds to criticism not with reform, but with repression. Ibn Warraq details that controversy in this valuable book, and he shows that this inability to deal with criticism and questioning is one key reason why the Muslim world will always lag behind the West -- unless, that is, our clueless and compromised elites continue to give away the store. Why the West is Best shows how crucial it is for the West to stand up to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's war against free speech. If we don't, this book will not be the call to defense of an imperiled civilization that Ibn Warraq clearly intended it to be. Instead, it will be the epitaph of a vanished culture, dead by its own hand.
Pamela Geller is the publisher of AtlasShrugs.com and the author of the WND Books title Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance.