Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why do they hate us?

...But it was an unplanned reaction by some of the protestors in attendance that made the biggest—and most disturbing—statement of the night.

That came after Dr. Wafa Sultan, a secular Syrian-American writer, misspoke while referring to the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by using Pipes’ name instead. Laughing at such a mistake is understandable, but there were some people who clapped enthusiastically at what they undoubtedly viewed as a legitimate punishment for Mr. Pipes. His crime? Warning others of the threat posed by Islamic totalitarianism.

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When asked about radical Islamists on campus, Pipes brought up the broader issue of the love affair between the far left and radical Islam. The alliance works because the two groups share the same enemy: George W. Bush. The far left has been waiting for decades for the “revolution,” and with totalitarian Islam it has finally arrived. Islamists, meanwhile, take advantage of the fact that the left is established in many national institutions. Brook then reminded the audience that the French left loved the Islamic revolution because they viewed it as a snub to capitalism.

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Here is one example of the French Intellectual infatuation with the Islamic Revolution:



Progressive and leftist intellectuals around the world were initially very divided in their assessments of the Iranian Revolution. While they supported the overthrow of the shah, they were usually less enthusiastic about the notion of an Islamic republic. Foucault visited and wrote on Iran during this period, a period when he was at the height of his intellectual powers. He had recently published Discipline and Punish (1975) and Vol. I of History of Sexuality (1976) and was working on material for Vol. II and III of the latter. Since their publication, the reputation of these writings has grown rather than diminished and they have helped us to conceptualize gender, sexuality, knowledge, power, and culture in new and important ways. Paradoxically, however, his extensive writings and interviews on the Iranian Revolution have experienced a different fate, ignored or dismissed even by thinkers closely identified with Foucault's perspectives.

Attempts to bracket out Foucault's writings on Iran as "miscalculations," or even "not Foucauldian," remind one of what Foucault himself had criticized in his well-known 1969 essay, "What Is an Author?" When we include certain works in an author's career and exclude others that were written in "a different style," or were "inferior," we create a stylistic unity and a theoretical coherence, he wrote. We do so, he added, by privileging certain writings as authentic and excluding others that do not fit our view of what the author ought to be: "The author is therefore the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning" (Rabinow 1984).

Throughout his life, Foucault's concept of authenticity meant looking at situations where people lived dangerously and flirted with death, a site where creativity originated. In the tradition of Friedrich Nietzsche and Georges Bataille, Foucault embraced the artist who pushed the limits of rationality and he wrote with great passion in defense of irrationalities that broke new boundaries. In 1978, Foucault found such morbid transgressive powers in the revolutionary figure of Ayatollah Khomeini and the millions who risked death as they followed him in the course of the revolution. He knew that such "limit" experiences could lead to new forms of creativity and he passionately threw in his support. This was Foucault's only first-hand experience of revolution and it led to his most extensive set of writings on a non-Western society.

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