Nick Cohen is an outspoken critic of those Western liberals who cower and dissimulate before extreme Islam. Here’s a bit of his new Guardian piece on a recent talk in London by Rafidya Bonya Ahmed, a secular blogger who survived a brutal attack by Muslims with meat cleavers. She was badly cut up and lost a thumb, but also lost her husband and co-blogger Avijit Roy, who died of his wounds. This is from the piece “Islamism prevails even as we suppress free speech”:
Compare the bravery of Bangladeshi intellectuals with the attitude of the bulk of the western intelligentsia. Whole books could be written on why it failed to argue against the fascism of our age – indeed I’ve written a couple myself – but the decisive reason is a fear that dare not speak its name. They are frightened of accusations of racism, frightened of breaking with the consensus, frightened most of all of violence. They dare not admit they are afraid. So they struggle to produce justifications to excuse their dereliction of duty. They turn militant religion into a rational reaction to poverty or western foreign policy. They maintain there is a moral equivalence between militant religion and militant atheism.
On occasion, they drop even that spurious attempt at evenhandedness and seem to suggest, as Professor Craig Calhoun, director of the London School of Economics, did recently, that the real menace facing universities is not students heading to Syria to rape and behead but secularists whose calls for free speech “challenge the faith and beliefs of religious students” and disrupt “campus harmony”. [JAC: do have a look at the link about the reprehensible Calhoun.] David Cameron will clearly have trouble taking his mission to “root out” extremism to the LSE.
For all the similarities, there is no moral equivalence between Britain and Bangladesh. They have thinkers of the calibre of Rafida Bonya Ahmed and Avijit Roy, while we have liberals whom Karl Marx might have looked at and said: “Religion is the opium of the intellectuals.”
Roy and Ahmed are precious defenders of free speech in a country where that very concept brings death; Nick Cohen is a precious critic of pusillanimous Western liberals who are apologists for Islam. Cohen reminds me of George Orwell, who issued, in his “Notes on Nationalism,” one of the smartest quips of our age:
One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.