Most helpful critical review
21 of 129 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2009
Ok, I admit it. I was snookered into reading this book by the Liberal Elite Media. I read the above Washington Post review, and decided not to read the book. Then I read a favorable (effusive even) review in the NY Times, and decided to read it. The book allegedly addresses a question that I think is both interesting and important. How much freedom is their within a free society. How does one balance the right to freedom of speech, with the rights of a religious minority? Even withing the context of Islam in the West, this book really wasn't that useful. Mr. Bawer has assembled a hodgepodge of episodes, and tied them together with hyperbolic prose and a very superficial analysis of the incidents and their implications. This appears to be at least in part because he comes from a very biased perspective, and in part because he apparently has a facile but superficial understanding of his subject matter. An example of this would be his attack on Andrea Elliott. Mr. Bawer applies his skill as a literary critic to attack Elliot's profile in the NYT of a Brooklyn Imam. In one instance, he attacks her for portraying the Iman as a "man in the middle" implying that she set out to humanize the Imam, and had she written about his opinions, the image of a moderate would have been destroyed. However, Mr. Bawer does not provide any evidence that the Imam's opinions would do any such thing. He apparently infers, without proceeding any futher in his analysis or justifying his conclusions (I guess he feels it is self evident, well, it isn't to me)that any Imam's opinions would be immoderate and damning. The book is full of this type of sloppy thinking. In addition, Mr. Bawer, who allegedly favors free speech, savages those who attempt to make use of it. Doesn't she have a right to write and publish as she pleases, in a free society. Doesn't the New York Times have the right not to publish cartoons that they don't feel are appropriate for publication. Free speech needs to work both ways. Another aspect of Mr. Bawer's sloppy work is his use of Arabic words inappropriatly. He writes "Many Muslims obviously saw the cartoons as an opportunity to nudge an already passive Europe a step closer to full-fledged dhimmitude, or underclass status. What he means is underclass status. Dhimmitude refers to protected minority religions within a Muslim state. Why doesn't he just say it in English, rather than misuse words he apparently doesn't understand? I'll try not to belabor the point, but there are mistakes and misunderstandings galore in this text. In the end, this book is a sloppy, poorly argued polemic, that hovers around issues concerning free speech and Muslims in the West. Mr. Bawer is apparently a well respected literaly critic, and knowlegable about homosexuality. He should either stick to these issues, or take some time and effort and learn and think more carefully about the issues he addresses here. So far all he he has produces is a paranoid pastiche of possibilities... (sorry).