Paul Berman is upset that some liberals think Tariq Ramadan is better placed to be an interlocutor with the Muslim world than, say, Hirsi Ali. Berman thinks that Ramadan is too extreme beneath the glossy veneer he presents to the West. Personally, I spent years in France avoiding his ubiquitous television appearances. I’m not really a fan, but there is one thing that can be said about him: he is part of the Muslim conversation, certainly in France and Switzerland and now apparently in the UK and US. Hirsi Ali, on the other hand, just isn’t. She’s a convenient mouthpiece for right wing Islamophobes who are afraid of sounding like bigoted jerks.
The New York Times has an interview with her in today’s Sunday magazine. This exchange alone should make it obvious why she isn’t a part of the Muslim conversation and why she shouldn’t be treated as an interlocutor with the Muslim world:
In your new book, “Nomad: From Islam to America,” you urge American Christians to try to talk to American Muslims about the limitations of their faith.
We who don’t want radical Islam to spread must compete with the agents of radical Islam. I want to see what would happen if Christians, feminists and Enlightenment thinkers were to start proselytizing in the Muslim community.
Hirsi Ali, through whom Paul Berman thinks the West should have a conversation with Muslims, wants to see Christians proselytizing in the Muslim community. And he wonders why people who know even the first thing about Islam don’t take her seriously.
For Americans looking to begin a debate with practicing Muslims, I’d like to offer a little bit of advice: someone whose book is called Infidel and who writes from her perch at the American Enterprise Institute is probably not going to be your best bet.