Berlusconi is not what people think he is

Two days ago we discussed Prime Minister Berlusconi’s acceptance of refugees from North Africa, which seemed at odds with his previous (reputed) hard line stand on immigration. However, as Diana West informs me, “Berlusconi has been off the reservation for years—so long I even got this into my 2007 book!”

Here is the excerpt Miss West has sent:

But “mea culpa” allows France to assume responsibility and write a check. What, the French might ask, are Euros for? Better to pacify. Better to be pacified. It isn’t grownup, but it’s survival.

Only it’s not. What gets by in a sheltered childhood doesn’t work in the real world. Take Berlusconi again. The enraged heir to Ancient Rome defending his civilization against barbarians in 2001, briefly, became the self-effacing host of Italy’s first official fast-breaking Ramadan dinner for Muslim diplomats in 2005. “Italy,” he began in a speech guaranteed to mollify every Euro-Arab colleague who ever attacked him, “has a long tradition of fruitful exchanges with Islam….” All the rhetoric of superiority was gone, along with all the pride in human rights and liberty.

Inclusively, he went on from there.

Our country has always been, is now, and will always be open to all forms of spirituality and respectful of all cultures and all religions. …

In particular, it is important that Italians learn to understand better the foundations of the Islamic religion because, after the tragedy of 11 September, it must be clear to everyone that terrorists who kill do not have anything to do with it [Islam] …

After the defeat of the totalitarianisms of the 20th century, the new great enemy for many suffering peoples is terrorism, which wants to lure us into the trap of the ‘clash of civilisations’. This pitfall must be avoided: we must make sure that a new “Iron Curtain” does not divide the West and the Muslim world. …

For this reason, we stress the importance of dialogue between our civilisations, that for all our differences, we are united by the same values of humanity. [i](Italics added.)

If I seem to be picking on Berlusconi, it’s only because the voluble prime minister is never one to let discretion cloud his enthusiasms di giorno. Once upon a time, Berlusconi articulated the Clash of Civilizations—the distinction between the West (liberty and human rights) and Islam (the lack thereof). Now, he gums the Mush of Civilizations, which, not incidentally, echoes the canned declarations of every successful beauty pageant contestant: For all our differences, we are united by the same values of humanity. The Italian leader is by no means alone in this; indeed, he speaks off the same page as every other world leader, up to and including George W. Bush. It is easy to tell which worldview, Clash or Mush, is politically correct; but which of them is just plain correct? And which offers a strategy for the survival of the world that is Western?

Five days after the 9/11 atrocities, President Bush described the war America was then mobilizing to fight. He counciled patience in the new cause, telling Americans, “This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going take a while.” [ii]

Crusade? Did he say crusade? Prefiguring the wrath to descend upon Berlusconi the following week, the multicultural grandees and guardians of PC declared the president to be in error—major error. So what if Manhattan was still burning? The word itself, they said, was inflammatory. So what if Al Qaeda squads of Muslim hijackers had just transformed four US passenger planes filled with men, women and children into ballistic weapons against American office buildings? Characterizing the response to Islamic terrorism as a “crusade” was just as offensive, according to multicultural logic, and would make Muslims, including Muslim “moderates,” go ballistic. But “moderates” don’t go ballistic, unless, that is, they really aren’t so moderate to begin with—which is the tip-off so hard to pick up on in a multicultural world. The question is, If a more or less literary allusion to “crusade” catapults Muslim “moderates” into the arms of “extremists,” either metaphorically or literally to training camp, how “moderate” were they in the first place?[iii] No answer. This is another one of those urgent questions that goes unasked. What we are left with in the absence of rational discussion is the phenomenon of the Hairtrigger Moderate: Anything sets him off, from the word “crusade” to Islamic profiling (to catch Islamic terrorists), from Mohammed cartoons to opposition to the proposed operational transfer of six major US ports to a country that has coddled Al Qaeda and helped Hamas. Like codependent family members, we cater to this tick-tick-tick pathology by tying on a gag of self-censorship and playing along with a fantasy of victimhood: Did the president say crusade?

[i] tk [?]

[ii] “Europe cringes at Bush `crusade’ against terrorists” Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, September 19, 2001

[iii] Since 9/11, Daniel Pipes has been tracking stories about seemingly law-abiding, reasonable, Western-integrated Muslims who come to notoriety after engaging in Islamically motivated violence against non-Muslims. In 2006, there was Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate who drove an SUV through a crowd of pedestrians to “avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world”; in 2005, there were the British-born, seemingly well-adjusted London Underground bombers; in 2004, there was Mohammed Ali Alayed, a son of a Saudi millionaire living in Houston who murdered his one-time Jewish friend; in 2003, there was Maher Hawash, a prosperous and respected engineer who was arrested in Oregon before he could join the Taliban. Pipes calls the phenomenon “Sudden Jihad Syndrome.” [LA replies: I would note that other than a brief mention in a Commentary article in 2002, Pipes has never once mentioned the possibility of reducing Muslim immigration. However, I do not include him among “The Usual Suspects,” VFR’s term for Islam critics who never recommend any reduction in Muslim immigration, for the simple reason that Pipes is not an Islam critic. As I explained in my 2005 article“The Search for Moderate Islam,” he is—half the time—an Islam apologist.]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 30, 2011 03:05 PM | Send

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