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French philosopher Pascal Bruckner accused Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash of propagating a form of multiculturalism that amounts to legal apartheid. His fiery polemic unleashed an international debate. By now Necla Kelek, Paul Cliteur, Lars Gustafsson, Stuart Sim, Ulrike Ackermann, Adam Krzeminski and Halleh Ghorashi have also entered the ring. Read their contributions as well as the initial responses by Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash here.

12/04/2007

A final rejoinder

Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash set Pascal Bruckner straight on a few last points.

It is good to know that we are no longer associated with witch hunts and the Inquisition, and that Mr Bruckner has words of praise, as well as blame, for "Murder in Amsterdam." The debate has been enlightening for us, as it has been for Mr Bruckner.

Alas, however, he still cannot resist the temptation of lashing out at things we never said. Neither of us ever proposed that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was a fanatic on human rights issues. We, like others, are concerned about her simplistic, monolithic view of Islam. Not the same thing at all.

Nor need it be a case of either Hirsi Ali or Tariq Ramadan. They don't agree, but in a pluralist society there is a positive role to be played by both. Neither of us have ever claimed Tariq Ramadan as our "champion". Ian Buruma's portrait of him in the New York Times Magazine was not a "hagiography". All it argued was that although his ideas may be neither secular, nor liberal, we should still engage with him, "critically, but without fear."

It is simply absurd to suggest that we cast him as "the sole serious dialogue partner of reformist Islam." Nor is it a case of "joining" Pascal Bruckner when Timothy Garton Ash's article in the Guardian emphasises the range of dissident and reformist voices in the world of Islam precisely our point in criticising the analysis made by Hirsi Ali.

Beyond that, however, we should be prepared to talk to Muslims of all stripes. To limit our dialogues to Muslims who largely agree with our secular views and abhor religious orthodoxy might be less taxing, but would, in the end, be less useful than talking to people whose views we do not share.

Enlightened reform of Islam is indeed desirable. It is our hope that this can be accomplished without the contemporary equivalent of burning churches or stringing up nuns. Mr Bruckner's taste for violent hyperbole might lead some to assume, no doubt erroneously, that he does not entirely share this hope.
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