New York Sun, March 2007
AMERICANS WITH A friendly disposition toward France have many reasons to hope for Nicolas Sarkozy’s victory in the presidential elections in April. The interior minister and leader of the Union for a Popular Movement is the most dynamic and exciting politician France has produced in years. He is a loyal admirer of America, which he calls “the greatest democracy in the world.” He has promised to overhaul the sclerotic French social welfare state and reform France’s second-rate educational system. Unlike his chief rival, the pretty airhead Ségolène Royal, he is not a tired socialist who declares money the “lifelong enemy.”
Continue reading Sarko’s Interior Monologue
New York Sun, February 2007
THERE HAS OF late been a tendency to interpret the opinions of Ayaan Hirsi Ali — known, like the Bengal Tiger, for being fantastic to look at, exotic in a frightening way, and highly endangered — by appealing to what one might call her Torquemada Complex. This was most famously evoked by Timothy Garton Ash, who remarked in the pages of the New York Review of Booksthat “[h]aving in her youth been tempted by Islamist fundamentalism … Ms. Hirsi Ali is now a brave, outspoken, slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist.” While this comment is silly — What, after all, does an “Enlightenment fundamentalist” believe? That the oeuvre of Thomas Paine is entirely literal and infallible? — I should in fairness note that the rest of Mr. Garton Ash’s essay on Europe and Islam is sensible, thoughtful, and lucid. But somehow his least felicitous remarks came in conjunction with similar observations made by Ian Buruma in “Murder in Amsterdam” (2006) to represent the received European wisdom about Ms. Hirsi Ali.
Continue reading The Bengal Tiger of Europe
New York Sun, May 2007
According to the dust jacket, church historian Philip Jenkins intends God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis ( Oxford University Press, 289 pages, $28) to function as a calming salve, a reassuring counterpoint to “overheated rhetoric” about Christian Europe’s imminent collapse under the weight of secularization and Muslim immigration. This may have been his intention, but it is not his achievement. His achievement — and it is considerable — is to have compiled one of the most patient and comprehensive cases extant for utter pessimism about Europe’s future. To see this, one need only change the dust jacket and cross out his repeated reassurances that what he notes is not really so alarming as it seems. There is no need even to change the title.
Continue reading Continent in Crisis
The New York Sun, November 2007
A review of: A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today.
In the wake of the First World War, leaders of the Western powers — Britain, France, Italy, and America — assembled in Paris to redraw the maps of the world. From the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, they meatballed together Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia; they invented Iraq and Jordan ex nihilo.
Continue reading We Are Children of Versailles
by John Hawkins, September 2006
John Hawkins: Why are Europeans so secular compared to Americans?
Claire Berlinski: American religiosity doesn’t need to be explained; after all, throughout history, in every civilization, people have believed in the supernatural. What needs to be explained is European atheism, which is the aberration-unique in the world and in human history. It has its origins in politics, I think, not metaphysics. Voltaire was of the view that it is not so much the intrinsic power of the argument for atheism that caused people to reject faith, but rather the corruption of the Church, and largely I agree with him. Before the French Revolution, there were no atheists in Europe. Heretics, sure. But atheists? Unheard of.
Continue reading An Interview With Claire Berlinski, Author Of Menace In Europe
The New York Sun, July 2007
A review of The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent.
Last month, en route to the British Library, I strolled past the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Piccadilly. I was on foot because it was a beautiful day and because there is a distinctly creepy mood, these days, on London’s tubes and busses. Signs everywhere remind passengers that they are on CCTV. The police presence is heavy and visible. To be sure, the odds of any one bus blowing up are tiny, but the ubiquitous security prompts the unwelcome thought that there are people about who seek to better those odds. Days later, I flew out of Heathrow airport, where the mood was creepier still.
Continue reading The Dawn of Islamic Europe
The New York Sun,September 2007
In 1995, having read Olivier Roy’s The Failure of Political Islam (1992), Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes asked, “How can someone who knows so much be so completely wrong?” Mr. Roy’s latest work, Secularism Confronts Islam, prompts the very same question. It is a remarkable book: articulate, original, lucid, without a paragraph that fails to contain an interesting thought. It is clearly the product of a wide-ranging intelligence in possession of a refined analytic sensibility, a first-rate historical education and a generous spirit. And one wonders how someone who knows so much could have written it.
Continue reading The Internal Threat
New York Sun, May 2007
According to the dust jacket, church historian Philip Jenkins intends God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis ( Oxford University Press, 289 pages, $28) to function as a calming salve, a reassuring counterpoint to “overheated rhetoric” about Christian Europe’s imminent collapse under the weight of secularization and Muslim immigration.
Continue reading Continent in Crisis (duplicate entry)
The Globe and Mail, September 2006
THE FILM SUBMISSION aired in the Netherlands on August 29, 2004. It was promptly and predictably decried by Muslims as blasphemous. Fair enough; it was. If you make a film that depicts verses of the Koran printed onto the skin of half-naked women, you must expect to be called a blasphemer. Expecting to be murdered is another story. Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh expected no such thing; he continued to cycle through the streets of Amsterdam unarmed and unprotected, dismissing the threats against him as empty bluster.
Continue reading Mere Anarchy is Loosed Upon the world