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The Flight of the Intellectuals Hardcover – April 27, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“An intellectual thriller in the form of a polemic, with Inspector Berman hunting for clues... Maybe Berman's book will start intellectuals talking, and not just about each other. Maybe some of the previously silent will begin to speak out against the death squads rather than snark about their victims and targets.”
Ron Rosenbaum, Slate

"Fascinating... This bracing and volatile book is an important one and devastating in its conclusions."
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"Paul Berman is, just like me and I think many others, surprised—and that’s an understatement—that some liberals choose to defend ideas that are very illiberal and choose to look away from practices that are even more illiberal. Why are they excusing radical Islam? That fascinates Berman and it also fascinates me, what the presence of Islam does to the liberal psyche in the West."
—Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Maclean's

"It has been quite astonishing to see how far and how fast there has been a capitulation to the believable threat of violence.... I join with Paul Berman in expressing utter astonishment at this phenomenon, or rather at the way that it is not a phenomenon."
—Christopher Hitchens

“Berman… has a fair claim to being regarded as the Benda of our time. In The Flight of the Intellectuals he continues his work of redeeming the good name of intellectuals by exposing the corrupt among them.”
—Anthony Julius, New York Times Book Review

“How do you distinguish a jihadist from a ‘moderate’ Muslim? Paul Berman's Flight of the Intellectuals brilliantly dissects the moral confusion and cowardice that contrives to sway some brave men and women. Must reading for our times.”
—Harold Evans, Daily Beast
“Brilliant, uncompromising.”
—Michael Young, Slate

Praise for Paul Berman

“One of our most gifted essayists, a deeply pensive writer with a lyrical talent for imaginative synthesis.”
The Boston Globe

“One of America’ s best exponents of recent intellectual history.”
The Economist

About the Author

Paul Berman is the author of A Tale of Two Utopias, The New York Times bestseller Terror and Liberalism, and Power and the Idealists. He writes for The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, and The New York Times Magazine.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; First Edition edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633514
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633510
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #654,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Inna Tysoe TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
According to the New Yorker, when George Packer asked Tariq Ramadan two questions at a recent ACLU-sponsored event in New York "the general picture was surprisingly, reassuringly bright: reconciling Islamic faith with liberal values is easy; the views of Muslims are basically the same as everyone else's; the oppression of Muslim women is a third-order issue." But George Packer's questions were drawn explicitly from or, it seems to me, were hugely influenced by Paul Berman's The Flight of the Intellectuals and, as a result, they were uncomfortable questions. George Packer wanted to know why Tariq Ramadan never disassociated himself from his grandfather, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood (and who is quoted in Hamas' Charter), from the Mufti of Jerusalem, his grandfather's ally and a man allied with Nazis, or from Sheikh Qaradawi, the man who passed a fatwa allowing women to carry out suicide bombings. George Packer also wanted to know if Tariq Ramadan felt that human rights were universal or if they could be determined by religious authorities. When it came to his grandfather's alliance with Nazi sympathizers, Tariq Ramadan asked the audience to consider the "context". The second question he dodged. And still more questions (this time from the audience) kept coming. Questions about women's oppression; questions about Hirsi Ali. And Paul Berman's book was not yet out.

But it seems to me quite right that this book should have such influence. To begin with, in it, Paul Berman provides the reader with context in spades. Here is Hassan al-Banna (Tariq Ramadan's grandfather) lavishing extravagant praise on the mufti of Jerusalem. Al-Banna declares, "Germany and Hitler are gone, but Amin Al-Husseini will continue the struggle.
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Format: Hardcover
You don't find many theoreticians, politicians or historians these days who are willing to challenge the conventional wisdom of left-wing European intellectuals--most of whom who appear consumed with their own rage and jaundiced viewpoints of the Middle East conflict, cultural antagonisms, and religious extremism. This fellow Berman convincingly skewers the proponents of one-sidedness and exposes their sneaky methods and hidden agendas. A surprisingly thoughtful, concise and well documented treatise.
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Format: Hardcover
A very careful and meticulous analysis, it is expanded from the author's June 4, 2007 "Who's afraid of Tariq Ramadan?" article in The New Republic.
The article, which is pretty long (I printed 37 pages), is available online for free if you want to check it out before you buy this important book.
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Format: Hardcover
In "Flight of the Intellectuals," Paul Berman presents an extensive critique of the thought of the Swiss philosopher Tariq Ramadan, and his kid-glove treatment by western intellectuals. The book is a trenchant exposure of Ramadan's tendency to speak out of both sides of his mouth, and the acceptance of violence as a political strategy, even among alleged "moderate" voices, that lies at the heart of the Islamist movement in Europe and America. Although Berman is cautious about giving credibility to the concept "Islamo-fascism," (he backs off from this), he nevertheless agrees that one can understand why people might want to use that phrase. He then unfolds, with wonderfully crafted prose, the very real fascist (specifically Nazi) influences on the Islamist movement since the 1930s down to the present day, and how accepting the alleged "moderate Muslim" Ramadan is of these principles.

The greater percentage of the book is a critique of Ian Baruma's article on Tariq Ramadan that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 2007. This extensive critique of a specific writer discussing a leading Swiss Muslim philosopher illuminates Berman's assessment of western intellectuals' response to radical Islam, which he describes as "a coverage animated by earnest good intentions, but, then again, by squeamishness and fear. And by less-than-good intentions."

Berman clarifies the intellectual line of descent in Ramadan's thought from Hassan al Banna (Ramadan's grandfather)through Jerusalem's Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini and Sayid Qutb. Berman challenges Ramadan to explain why he refuses to clearly reject the violent extremism of such figures, and why, when writing of them, Ramadan dances around such a lurid anti-semitism and exterminationist agenda as was embraced by the the Mufti.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Flight of the Intellectuals" endeavors to make two major (or as Berman might term it, "big, really big") points through an exposition of the elliptical writings of Tariq Ramadan and the reactions of certain representatives of the Western intelligentsia to his work. These points are that: 1). Modern "public intellectuals" (two of them, anyway, specifically Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash) endorse Ramadan due to a spurious equivalence between a fashionable ethnic/religious identity (Islam, in this case) and political authenticity and, 2). That Tariq Ramadan conceals a strict Islamist agenda beneath a confusing veneer of double-talk, dissimulation, prevarication and misrepresentation. As a coda, Berman deals with the contrasting case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the famous apostate from Islam, now a member of the "free-thinker" set. Due to her disaffection from Islam and her whole-hearted embrace of Enlightenment values, Berman contends that the left-leaning intellectual set (personified by Ash and Buruma) have derided, demeaned, belittled and dismissed her work. In short, he accuses Ramadan of intellectual dishonesty in the service of an Islamist agenda and Buruma/Garton Ash of endorsing that agenda because its "comme il faut" to do so, or to borrow a phrase from Lance Morrow ("Time" magazine), "toleration of intolerance -- the toleration of evil intentions or atavistic tribal or sectarian angers...": Islamism.

The focus on a largely obscure dispute, at least to the general public (narrowly defined as outside the strictured confines of the readership of "The New York Review of Books" [NYRB] and "The New Republic" [TNR]) might strike the potential reader as a very arcane and parochial effort, one unworthy of the time and concentration needed to read it.
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