The Good News Letter
by Phyllis Chesler
Dearest Readers, Friends, Supporters, and Colleagues:
I have some good news to share: A major publisher has made a formal offer for an upcoming book, which I have happily accepted. I am very excited to begin work on this project, which shall remain a mystery for now. The deadline is fierce, fast, and breathtaking, but I am determined to meet it.
Sadly, this means I will have less time to devote to articles and journalism. However, I will continue to contribute on a more limited basis to Israel National News, PJ Media, World Net Daily, Middle East Quarterly, and Fox News. Keep an eye out for my articles.
Over the past decade, I have published hundreds of articles each year as a way of getting my voice out into the world; last year, I published over 155 articles! I also continued my pioneering research on Honor Killings, and my third study on this subject will appear soon in Middle East Quarterly.
So far, I have already published 19 articles in 2012. I hope to add at least another twenty-- before the year is out. This year, forty articles (and a brand new book) will have to do.
I love blogging despite all the background reading it entails, and I will miss being a constant presence on the front lines of the great cultural war that is taking place. I promise: The new book will be a major contribution to the fight and will be worth the wait.
Allow me to send you a lovely little piece which I wrote last month. It has not yet appeared anywhere so consider this an original gift, an offering to you, my faithful readers and supporters.
Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.
The Last Manhattan Book Party
It was the best of times, the worst of times...the lights have been gouged out all over the Islamic world and the Islamist blindness threatens to darken the lives of civilians everywhere, especially in the West.
Nevertheless, and precisely because this is so, thirty people recently gathered for an old-fashioned book party to celebrate Ibn Warraq's ninth book, Why the West is Best. Such a party used to be pro forma in the New York publishing world. I miss them. I can remember a time when I attended book parties every week, sometimes two in a single night.
The spacious third floor apartment of Nahma Sandrow and William ("Bill") Meyers, our most gracious hosts, overlooks Riverside Park and the Hudson River. When snow blankets the grass, children on sleds and their trailing parental entourages turn the view into a Brueghel painting. In summer, the park-goers promenade in a 21st century version of Seurat's, "Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte."
Everything here cries out its affirmation of Western civilization: the many bookshelves, the artfully framed photographs, (Bill is a world-class photographer and critic for the Wall Street Journal), the Jewish memorabilia. Nahma is a retired professor, playwright, and the author of many books (Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theatre and Surrealism: Theatre, Arts, Ideas).
Indeed, the people who came to celebrate Ibn Warraq's spirited defense of Western Civilization might collectively have written hundreds of books and thousands of articles.
We are the People of the Book and I fear that our days may be numbered. Formerly leather-bound and gold embossed books are now digital and have lost their third-dimension. People who treasured such volumes and who grew up writing with pens, not computers, are now in the minority.
The side conversations were hilarious and somber.
"Are you depressed enough yet?" Sol Stern, the author of Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice and A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism and Jew Hatred, asked me.
"No" said I, "I need to keep a reserve supply for what may come."
Marion Dreyfus, the most delightful columnist and world traveler, told me that she had just returned from Israel, where people seemed rather happy—only to find her phone ringing. A psychic warned her that she'd just seen "many women in hijab and burqas below 14th St in Manhattan and feared that a terrorist attack was imminent."
"Oh," I said, "Hilda is something of an alarmist."
Startled, Marion asked: "How did you know her name?"
Teasing her, I answered: "Well, I'm a bit of a psychic too." (I know Hilda, it just sounded like something she might have said).
Said Maid Marion: "I do not understand how Obama keeps defying the laws of gravity, how his approval ratings keep rising even as the cost of gasoline keeps rising. Real money is now at stake. What will it take to get people to pay attention?"
Then, I introduced Ibn Warraq, the author of nine books, who was born in a place that was still part of India, in the city where Gandhi grew up: Rajkot.
Ibn Warraq spoke briefly but passionately.
"I do not think there are many books on the market that are unashamedly pro-Western...and that talk without reserve of the superiority of Western Civilization and which take on such taboo subjects as Asian racism, Arab Anti-Semitism, Islamic Imperialism, the role of Islam and the Arabs in the Slave Trade, the complicity of Black Africans in the enslavement, and later selling of fellow Africans to Arabs, Persians, Indians and Europeans. There also cannot be any books on the market that defend Western Civilization that begin with a walk down Tin Pan Alley in New York City."
Ibn Warraq then praised Manhattan, its museums, its energy, its architecture. Above all, he applauded the New York Public Library, an institution that "embodies key aspects of Western civilization: philanthropy, education, the love of knowledge, the preservation of all the best that has been written and published."
He ended with a joke, which he cautioned us not to "take too literally." In 2007, Ibn Warraq beat Tariq Ramadan in an Intelligence Squared debate in London. He said:
"When Ramadan was asked what he thought of the Islamic punishment of stoning adulterers to death, instead of condemning it as a barbaric custom, Ramadan replied that there should be a moratorium on this punishment, that is to say a legally authorized period of delay in the performance of a legal obligation. It so happened the very last word of the entire evening fell to me. I said: "I do not wish to live in a society where its citizens are stoned to death for adultery. I prefer to live in a society where we get stoned first and then commit adultery."
We all laughed and then the serious questions began: "Does anyone in the West agree with you?;" "Why don't Westerners believe that the way to know what people are thinking is to listen to them?;" "Islam is dangerous, there is no way around this, what do you say to this point?;" "You praise the West, but has its self-loathing led to an inability to defend itself?"
Ibn Warraq responded: "I say that Islam is different from Muslims. Sometimes, Muslims have been tolerant. Islam itself is not benign or kind but Muslims are and have been so;" And "As to Western self-loathing: This might be an exaggeration of a virtue, namely that of self-criticism. People do not understand that they are destroying themselves."
As dusk darkened to night, there we still were, talking, joking, sighing: the actor, Tony Lo Bianco, (The French Connection, Law and Order), the author and journalist Stephanie Gutmann(The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy), Alyssa Lappen, the journalist and financial expert; Ruth S. King, who edits the online journal of Americans for a Safe Israel; George Jochnowitz, a retired professor of linguistics and an author, who was pleasantly surprised to find someone else at the party with whom he could converse in fluent Chinese: Ido Shargal.
In true Manhattan form, one guest arrived two and a half hours late, and at the beginning of the party, four people joined us only to discover that their party was on another floor. There was a general gaiety and informality about the evening.
We are all writing and reading books and articles in the shadow of gruesome genocides. Books are not enough--and yet, how I treasure our sobriety, our sweetness, our irrational courage.
I hope that Ibn Warraq's book replaces Edward Said's Orientalism in classrooms everywhere.
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--Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Author of Infidel and Nomad
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