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Azar Nafisi is best known as the author of the national bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which electrified its readers with a compassionate and often harrowing[…]

The West should be fighting extremist ideology.

Azar Nafisi:  The way should be . . . should be fighting fundamentalist ideology. Whether they are doing it or not is another story. First of all I think well partly if you are dealing with someone like Osama bin Laden, then I know that the fight is military. Apart from that it shouldn’t be. You know I was very much against the war in Iraq before it happened, apart from the fact that I had lived in Iran and I knew how disastrous it will be for my country, which it was. Because the most extreme elements of the system got into Iraq, and they also got to suppress the Iranian people far more. And every time you talked about democracy they say you’re an American stooge. So for us we paid a price. But I think if the West doesn’t understand that what the fundamentalists are afraid of is the culture of democracy, what is it that they object to? Freedom of women; freedom of expression; freedom of minorities; freedom of culture; all of these is what Osama bin Laden is saying – calling the west decadent the way Stalin used to call the West decadent for these issues. So these are your strong points. If you’re fighting, you fight with culture. You fight with ideology. If you’re fighting with people who torture their own people and others, you don’t do the same thing. So the West I feel should be very careful about not becoming cynical of its own values. What threatens the West is partly radical Islam or radical Islam; partly the fear of terror. But the most threat to the West is cynicism about its own values and principles. And that I think is what threatens the West.