In a post at his AOL blog, Dinesh D’Souza responds to the title of my New Criterion essay (“D”Souza goes native”) on his new book. D’Souza’s post is “Mr. Johnson goes nativist.” D’Souza disparages the New Criterion, praises himself, and seems to criticize my Midwestern parochialism (or is he referring to readers of the New Criterion?). And he also calls me a nativist. See if you can follow the logic:
My fellow AOL blogger Scott Johnson of Powerline has written a lengthy review of my book The Enemy at Home which was published in the New Criterion. I probably wouldn’t have seen it–I thought the New Criterion went out of business years ago–but it’s been reprinted elsewhere. The title of the piece is “D’Souza Goes Native.”
I’m writing a lengthy response to conservative critics like Johnson which will expose their errors of fact and logic, and their massive ignorance of Islam. Here I simply want to comment on Johnson’s title. “In the four years he claims to have spent studying America and the West through Muslim eyes,” Johnson writes, “D’Souza appears to have gone native.” Among Midwesterners who haven’t traveled far from home, this kind of reference is considered highbrow.
But see how Johnson botches the whole concept and in the process reveals his own small-minded nativism. When a Western guy goes abroad and casts his lot with the foreigners, in the process abandoning the values of his own society, he is said to have “gone native.” But I am a native of Mumbai, India. I grew up in a multireligious and multicultural world where Hindu, Muslim and Christian influences were closely integrated. I am from one of the oldest Christian families in India. I learned English as well as two native Indian languages. From childhood I was exposed both to Western ideas, imported into India through the British, as well as non-Western ideas and influences.
Voluntarily, I came to America and became a citizen. So if I have “gone native,” I have gone native in America. I have assimilated to the American way of life, not by osmosis, but deliberately and deliberatively, and I have given the reasons for my change of heart in my book What’s So Great About America. Since I have a good knowledge of both Western and non-Western cultures, I approached the leading thinkers of radical Islam in an attempt to study what their ideas are, and why they are winning so many converts to their nefarious cause. My objective is to understand the enemy, so that we can fight him better.
Unable to grapple with a guy who actually knows other cultures from within, who has a real knowledge of the Muslim world, and who doesn’t succumb to the rabid Islamophobia characteristic of Johnson and some others on the right, my philistine fellow blogger can do no better than accusing me of “going native.” Next time remind me to bring my prayer rug.
Put the imputation of “rabid Islamophobia” to one side. In my essay, I treated D’Souza as an American who had “gone native” in the course of his study of the Muslim world. How this can make me a “nativist” is beyond me, but it of a piece with the insights of his book.