Paul Berman: He has different kinds of defenders. Some of those people are his own fans or followers. But he also has defenders in the Western liberal press who are not themselves Muslims and certainly have no relation to the Islamist political movement.
The Western liberals, some of them, defend Ramadan for two reasons. If you listen to Ramadan for fifteen minutes, you will learn that he says all the right things, whatever a liberal-minded person would want such a man to say.
MJT: He does.
Paul Berman: He's against bigotry, he's against anti-Semitism, he's against terrorism, he's for the rights of women, he's in favor of democratic liberties, he's for a tolerant and multi-religious society ruled ultimately by secular values. He's for science, learning, and enlightenment. He's in favor of every possible good thing. There isn't a single objectionable point in the first fifteen minutes of his presentation.
Paul Berman: Unfortunately, the sixteenth minute arrives, and, if you are still paying attention, you learn that he wants us to revere the most vicious and reactionary of Islamist sheikhs -- the people who promote violence, bigotry, totalitarianism, and terror. The sixteenth minute is not good. The liberal quality of his thinking falls apart entirely.
However, his liberal admirers in the Western press stop paying attention in the fifteenth minute, and they rush to acclaim him. They do it by mistake. That's one reason.And one more:
MJT: You provided some examples in your book, and I've some experience with this myself. I was in Beirut when the Syrian military was finally thrown out by a million citizens taking to the streets, and the whole thing was dismissed by some people in the West as a right-wing Christian Gucci revolution.
Paul Berman: Yes.
MJT: It was absolutely appalling, and I will never forget it. To this day I get hate mail from these kinds of people when I write about Lebanon.
Paul Berman: It really is something remarkable. I can understand it intellectually, but not emotionally. It comes from some old and very unattractive currents in Western thought that we can see over the course of the 20th century.
Remember, a lot of people despised the Soviet dissidents, too.
MJT: Right. What do you think causes this? I think I have it mostly figured out, but I still feel like I'm missing something.
Paul Berman: Well, I don't have it entirely figured out either. [Laughs.] But I note it. In regard to the Soviet dissidents of the past, at least nowadays there is a consensus of opinion that, yes, the dissidents were correct and we should have listened to them. So why didn't we? When I say "we," I mean the intellectual community as a whole in the Western countries. And it's for a whole set of reasons.Well worth reading