Published in 2006, Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West From Within impressed me with its direct and uncompromising assessment of the conflict between traditional European values of multiculturalism, secularism and post-war liberalism and those of uncompromising political Islam. While a number of conservatives weighed in on this debate, to me Bawer did the best job. Even if I didn’t agree with everything he said, I found his arguments well-reasoned, supported by credible evidence and therefore compelling. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, I found his approach direct and non-combative. For these reasons and probably others, Bawer’s While Europe Slept made by “best of” list for 2007.
About a year ago I saw on Amazon that Bawer had written another book. Reading the posted comments of his latest effort Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, I could see that a number of readers were not happy with the book. While keeping in mind that every book has it detractors, I made a mental note of the new book’s existence and vowed to someday read it. Fast forward to the other day and when I saw Surrender on the shelf at my public library I took a chance and grabbed it. After finishing it the other day, and liking some aspects of his book, overall I found Bawer opinionated and surprisingly mean-spirited. Needless to say I was a bit disappointed.
Surrender is Bawer’s call to arms to address the West’s inability to deal truthfully and realistically with Islam’s refusal to honor such time-honored values like freedom of expression and other manifestations of post-Enlightenment secularism. By practicing “multiculturalism” and its attendant respect of religious diversity, any criticism of Islam is seen as “hate speech” as the West turns a blind eye to practices such as honor killings, persecution of homosexuals and Jews, subjugation of women and violent outbursts over perceived blasphemies.
Like I stated earlier, I thought Bawer came off terribly opinionated. He seems to relish in disliking most notable experts in the field of Islamic studies. For example, while I’m sympathetic to his criticism to John Esposito as being a bit too soft on political Islam, (according to Bawer, Esposito’s teaching chair at Harvard is paid by the Saudi ruling family), I disagree with his criticisms of Karen Armstrong and I’m skeptical of his negative assessment of contemporary Muslim jurist Khaled Abou El Fadl. After reading Bawer’s lambasting of Ian Buruma and his book Murder in Amsterdam I’m left wondering if Bawer prefers to interpret the Baruma’s words and those of others through the filters of his own agenda. Sadly, this left me questioning Bawer’s overall credibility.
Unfortunately, while his previous book While Europe Slept seemed well-written and engaging to read, in his newest book Bawer tends to argue his points over and over again. Since it lacks the subtlety and quality editing of its predecessor, I’m tempted to believe Bawer’s latest offering is a bit of a “rush job”. While I found myself burning through at times, overall when compared to While Europe Slept I think Surrender could have used the touch of a talented and capable editor.
In spite of all of this, I would hesitate to tell anyone to steer clear of Surrender. According to Bawer, the standard-bearer of mainstream news, The New York Times never reviewed his While Europe Slept as well as Claire Berlinski’s Menace In Europe and Mark Steyn’s America Alone, despite all three books selling surprisingly well and Bawer’s book becoming a National Book Award finalist. If correct, that’s a shame. When dealing with topics as expansive as they are divisive like religion and politics, one must read as many diverse voices as possible. While Bawer might have disappointed me with his book Surrender, nevertheless I would still encourage people to read it. Then after that they can draw their own conclusions.