When Western Liberals Turn on Muslim Liberals

Having published a prize-winning French novel, the Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud began receiving invitations to write for European and American papers. Now he has become a target of condemnation—most notably in an open letter by a group of nineteen professors in France. The reason: he has criticized Saudi Arabia, labeled attitudes toward women in Arab countries as “sick,” and otherwise challenged the orthodoxies of his erstwhile patrons on the Western left. Paul Berman and Michael Walzer write:

The denunciations of Daoud are . . . doubly distressing because they conform to a pattern that has become familiar. It goes like this: a writer with liberal ideas emerges from a background in Muslim countries, or perhaps lives there now. The writer proposes criticisms of Islam as it is practiced, or of sexual repression under Islamic domination (a major theme), or of the Islamist movement. The criticisms seem blasphemous to the Islamists and the reactionary imams, who respond in their characteristic fashion.

In the Western countries, intellectuals who mostly think of themselves as progressive make their own inquiry into the writer and his or her ideas. They hope to find oblique and reticent criticisms of a sort that they themselves produce. But they find something else—criticisms that are angrier and more vehement, or more sweeping, or more direct.

The Western intellectuals, some of them, recoil in consternation. And, as if liberated from their reticence, they issue their own condemnation of the offending writer, not on grounds of blasphemy but on grounds that purport to be left-wing. The Western intellectuals accuse the liberal from the Muslim world of being a racist against Muslims, or an Islamophobe, or a “native informant” and a tool of imperialism. Sometimes they accuse the liberal from the Muslim world of stupidity, too, or lack of talent.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Algeria, Arts & Culture, France, Islamism, Leftism

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy