William Dalrymple reviewed Bernard Henri-Levy’s Who Killed Daniel Pearl? for the NYRB recently. Dalrymple didn’t pull his punches, but he had cogent points to make: “Lévy shows an intermittent disdain for Islam, and something approaching hatred for Pakistan. He rightly criticizes Pakistanis for their anti-Semitism, and for regarding Israel as evil incarnate, but then goes on to use the same prejudiced language about Pakistan. It is “the Devil’s own home,” “drugged on fanaticism, doped on violence,” a “silent hell, full of the living damned” and their “nightmare mullahs.” Karachi is worse still: “a black hole,” full of “the half-dead,” where “fanatic… long-haired dervishes with wild, bloodshot eyes” howl outside “the house of the Devil.”

Henri-Levy’s response is distinguished by its bombast: “Who insults the memory of Daniel Pearl: a book critic who dares to offer the insane notion that the country where Pearl was beheaded is a country friendly to journalists, or someone who undertook a year-long, step-by-step investigation of this atrocious murder and the network that perpetrated it?”

In his reply (scroll down the page), Dalrymple prefers the rapier approach: “Finally, it is true that the final page and a half of Who Killed Daniel Pearl? is marginally less hostile to Islam than the rest of the book, and that in it BHL visits a mosque where for “the first time I enter a religious space in Karachi without feeling the wind of imprecation, of hatred.” BHL says that this brought to mind good Muslim acquaintances such as the late President Izetbegovich of Bosnia and the Afghan Mujahideen leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Coming, however, after over four hundred pages of invective against Pakistan and ordinary Pakistanis, this coda reads suspiciously like the traditional disclaimer, “Of course some of my best friends….”

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