Book Review
Pascal Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt

by Lorna Salzman

"The Christian religions were bloodthirsty and murderous by deviating from their texts, whereas Islam was the same by following its text more closely" (Eric Conan, L'Express, April 27, 2006, quoted in Bruckner).

On my shelf of books read, on the subject of Islamism, are some important historical, political and ethical statements and declarations of outrage at the tyranny of Islam. They bear important witness to what is arguably the greatest moral issue of our time: the imprisonment of the minds and bodies of tens of millions of people across the world by a patriarchal theocracy purporting to spread the word of the only true "God" and the only "true" religion, through coercion and violence against its apostates and the infidels, which is to say all adherents of all the other religions in the world.

But of all these books, one of the most most comprehensive, insightful and mordant is that by French philosopher Pascal Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt. It's not an easy read but it is worthwhile. You can alternate it with Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book, Nomad, her personal testament to the innate toxicity of Islam.

Bruckner starts out by shattering the fashionable leftist self-image of white westerners as the imperialists who are solely responsible for all the crimes committed everywhere in the world. He does so not by denying these crimes but by demonstrating that the white west itself gave birth to the forces, beliefs and movements that ended these crimes and in their place brought the Enlightenment, democracy, rationality, tolerance, artistic expression, cultural pluralism, technology, civil liberties, and equality.

He then points out that these countercurrents have never occurred under Islam but only under western Christianity itself. The African Muslims sold blacks into slavery that was imported into the New World, but it was Europe and the United States that abolished slavery, which still exists in black African nations such as Niger, Sudan, and Mauritania, not to mention outside of Africa in India, Haiti, and southeast Asia.

In fact, all the liberatory movements that have occurred in the world have taken place in the west, under white Christian regimes: workers' rights, gay rights, women's equality, the environment, civil liberties, voting rights, etc. The same white western culture that committed acts of barbarism then entered into a deep self-questioning and self-criticism, something that Islam has still refused to do.

After a keen analysis of the white western guilt that finds no crimes being committed by Muslim countries or tyrants of color, Bruckner then moves quickly and decisively into full-throttle condemnation of Islam, noting that Muslim apostates and secularists are the main targets of Islamic rage and violence, as one would expect. Here is one quote regarding the Muslim faith:

"The day when its highest authorities recognize the conquering, aggressive nature of their faith, when they ask to be pardoned for the holy wars waged in the name of the Qu-ran and for the infamies committed against infidels, apostates, unbelievers, and women, when they apologize for the terrorist attacks that profane the name of God--that will be a day of progress and will help dissipate the suspicion that people legitimately harbor regarding this sacrificial monotheism".

" Criticizing Islam, far from being reactionary, constitutes on the contrary the only progressive attitude at a time when millions of Muslims, reformers or liberals, aspire to practice their religion in peace without being subjected to the dictates of bearded doctrinaires. Banning barbarous customs such as lapidation, repudiation, polygamy, and clitoridectomy, subjecting the Qu'ran to hermeneutic reason, doing away with objectionable verses about Jews, Christians, and gays and appeals for the murder of apostates and infidels, daring to resume the Enlightenment movement that arose among Muslim elites at the end of the nineteenth century in the Middle East --that is the immense political, philosophical, and theological construction project that is opening up... (as) intellectuals, professors and Arab Muslim clerics have begun to undertake this work..some of them thereby risking their lives..".

Some guilty white westerners (the ones that most need to read this book) will point out that the Old and New Testaments contain objectionable advocacy for violence. But there is a big difference. The Judeo-Christian bible is not required reading, or the sole reading, for western students, whereas in Muslim schools, the Qu-ran is usually the ONLY book that is read, and it is mandatory. The Qu-ran and the hadith constitute the basis for ALL of Islamic law and social relationships. There is nothing else. Nothing else is permitted.

Bruckner then urges a "great chain of help for all the rebels in the Islamic world, whether moderate, unbelieving, free-thinkers, atheists, or schismatics, just as we used to support the dissidents of Eastern Europe....Europe, if it wishes to construct a secular Islam within its frontiers,should encourage these divergent voices, give them its financial, moral, and political support, sponsor them, invite them, and protect them. Today is there no cause that is more sacred and serious or that more affects the concord of future generations. But with a suicidal blindness, our continent kneels down before Allah's madmen and gags or ignores the free-thinkers".

Sadly, we in the USA lack a public intellectual of such moral clarity and intellectual integrity to lead us out of our own confusion. Some come close: there are important thinkers like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, of the "new atheism" movement, but their work has not yet homed in on the origins and central themes to the degree that Bruckner has. But at least they provide encouragement and reinforcement for those of us who will continue to speak out against the tyranny of Islam as it creeps into our society and threatens our secular democracy as nothing else has.

© 2002 Lorna Salzman. All rights reserved. Material may be quoted with permission.