Michael Shurkin
Radical Evil: Bernard-Henri LÚvy on the Murder of Daniel Pearl, p. 4

While both Nazi and Islamicist evil may be explained, it cannot be justified - something that many of those who have sat in 'solidarity' with Hamas or Saddam Hussein seem to miss. Those who expect to find "real" evil with a heart of darkness and a sinister laugh, and those who, when they don't find them, assume that they are not confronting evil - these two groups fail to understand that evil does not run deep, and that it may be practiced by people with plenty of explanations and people who love their mothers. Evil is as evil does, and evildoers are human.

The question that troubled LÚvy - and should trouble us - is the same one that motivated Arendt:: what can we, humanists and liberals, salvage? Are we compelled to regard a "Clash of Civilizations" as pre-determined? Is there a middle ground between the reckless foolishness of those who refuse to recognize evil there where it is most evident and Bush-style reductionism, intolerance and warfare?

In the last pages of LÚvy's book, when he recounts the last moments of his final trip to Pakistan, he recalls all the positive experiences he has had with Muslims and the positive feelings he has had for Islam. "There is that other face of Islam," he writes, "that gentleness of Islam in whichůagainst everything, to the last minute, Daniel Pearl wanted to believe, and in which I believe also." (p. 535) But which face will win? Will it be the "inheritors of that ancient exchange of men and cultures that goes from Avicenna to Mahfouz, by way of these sages of Cordoba-or the furious men of the camps in Peshawar who call for jihad and, chest ringed with explosives, aspire to die as martyrs?" And is there any role that we in the West can play?

LÚvy can only conclude his book by praising Pearl for going up against "all the doctrinaires of a war of civilizations that can only promise the worst." He honors his "posthumous friend." and "calls for the spread of Enlightenment." Beyond that BHL is silent. He has no answers.

[1]       [2]       3       [4]       [next->]

Michael Shurkin is an associate editor of Zeek Magazine.

Related articles:

The Gifts of the German Jews Michael Shurkin
Toward a postmodern Judaism
August, 2003

Zionism and Colonialism Michael Shurkin
Is Zionism Colonialism?
June, 2003

Holocaust Video Testimonies Dan Friedman
The other reality TV
August, 2003

Antifada Paratrooper Michael Kuratin
The new Israeli smash hit
May, 2003

The Red-Green Alliance Dave Hyde
The weird and worrying links between the radical Left and the Islamist Right
April, 2003

Germanophobia Michael Shurkin
Fearing the Germans for the Wrong Reasons
April, 2003

Surrender Monkeys Michael Shurkin
Hating the French for the Right Reasons
March, 2003

War and Not-War Dan Friedman
The ambiguities of art and life
March, 2003

Strasbourg Cathedral Michael Shurkin
The soft borders between Jewish particularism and universalism
February, 2003

Finding a Place in the Minefield:
American Jews and the Situation
Samuel Hayim Brody

Avoiding the obvious Jewish responses to the mideast crisis: a response to Jay Michaelson
June, 2002

On Being a Leftist and a Zionist Jay Michaelson
It's a lonely world when you're both an anti-globalization leftist and a Zionist.
May, 2002

Five Groups to be Angry at after September 11 Jay Michaelson
There's a lot of frustration in the air. Channel your rage at the people responsible for September 11 -- and we don't mean those cavemen in Afghanistan.
December, 2001

August 2003

Radical Evil: Bernard Henry Levy on
the death of Daniel Pearl
Michael Shurkin

Trembling Before You
Matthue Roth

What is Burning Man?
Jay Michaelson

Chanel Dubofsky

Abraham Mezrich

Josh Calls His New Roommate
Josh Ring

Zeek in Print
Buy online here

David Stromberg

About Zeek

The Zeek Archive