I felt uncomfortable reading this book on public transport. I’m not sure if that says more about me, the book, or the times we live in, but it’s interesting considering the provocative title.
Bruckner, a French ‘new’ intellectual believes we’re being too careful when it comes to Islam. ‘In a civilised system, we have the right to reject the great religions as a whole, to consider them puerile, retrograde, stultifying. We have the right to call Moses, Jesus and Muhammad the “Three Imposters”.’ To cordon Muslims off for special treatment is bad for societies and bad for Islam itself, he believes.
‘To speak of Islamophobia is… to keep alive the confusion between a system of beliefs and the faithful who adhere to it.’ Although he’s careful to distinguish between harming a believer and questioning their beliefs, An Imaginary Racism still makes for queasy reading at times. His suggestions that colonialism might be a means for occupied countries to grow into maturity – once they come to realise what’s good for them – and that ‘primitive’ religions progress into monotheistic beliefs, seem at least half-sighted and at worst aligned with more unpleasant bigotry.
There are some interesting observations here – about how racial struggles have replaced class struggles, and how in supporting these conflicts people can inadvertently fragment the very multicultural society they have worked so hard to build. And he does raise the question of how we can hold other countries or cultures to account without being called prejudiced – something the UK Labour Party is struggling with.
But there are no answers here. This is a polemic. And Bruckner is so busy knocking down what he sees as mainstream beliefs, he omits to resurrect anything in their place. The result left me feeling despondent and slightly soiled.
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