on 17 March 2005
Roger Scruton is known for his position somewhere on the traditional right of the political spectrum. Indeed he has written a defence of conservatism. Those on the left may therefore be wary of this book. But as someone who has not in the past sympathised with Scruton's politics I can strongly recommend this book. The book's strength is its intellectual seriousness combined with its clarity of expression. Anyone who is interested in the history of ideas will find this book of interest, since it goes much deeper than the aftermath of 9/11 and addresses the enlightenment and the modern nation-state by contrast with developments in the Islamic world. It also deals with the puzzling, not to say wrongheaded, disposition of some western intellectuals to belittle the cultural heritage of the west and ignore the many benefits this has brought ordinary people the world over. For such intellectuals the west can never redeem itself for the "guilt" associated with its historical dominance over other cultural traditions.
on 19 November 2003
This slim little volume packs more facts and well-reasoned arguments than all the Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky tomes put together. This remarkable intellect knows more about the Islamic world than all the George Galloways and Charles Kennedys in Britain. For one thing, he actually knows Arabic, and has closely studied many Islamic texts, something none of these other blowhards can claim. Brits may assume this book provides nothing but a pro-Western slant to recent events, but that's far from the case. In fact, Scruton sympathizes a great deal with militant Islamic critiques of Western-style consumerism. But he explains how their "solution" to the problem, the fundamentalist Islamification of the world, would destroy more than our right to buy what we want, but all the freedoms we hold dear. There is a wistful current throughout, as he demonstrates how the self-loathing and self-flagellation of so many Westerners are symptoms of our culture's almost-inevitable decline. Whether it can revive its past vigor, or what might take its place, is difficult to fathom at this stage. But one thing is for sure: if you believe that Islamism would be an improvement, you're deluding yourself.