Ian McEwan misses the point


by Rumbold
23rd June, 2008 at 7:55 pm    

Noted British novelist Ian McEwan has attacked those who criticised Martin Amis for his remarks on Islam:

“”A dear friend had been called a racist,” he said. “As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on the left leaps to his feet and claims that because the majority of Muslims are dark-skinned, he who criticises it is racist.

“This is logically absurd and morally unacceptable. Martin is not a racist. And I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on – we know it well.”

McEwan – author of On Chesil Beach and the acclaimed Atonement and Enduring Love – has spoken on the issue of Islamism before, telling The New York Times last December: “All religions make very big claims about the world, and it should be possible in an open society to dispute them. It should be possible to say, ‘I find some ideas in Islam questionable’ without being called a racist.”"

Ian McEwan is right to say that all religions should be freely criticised, but that wasn’t what Martin Amis was doing. What Amis said was:

“There’s a definite urge – don’t you have it? – to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suff­­er­­­ing? Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children. They hate us for letting our children have sex and take drugs – well, they’ve got to stop their children killing people. It’s a huge dereliction on their part. I suppose they justify it on the grounds that they have suffered from state terrorism in the past, but I don’t think that’s wholly irrational. It’s their own past they’re pissed off about; their great decline. It’s also masculinity, isn’t it?

Ian McEwan is trying to conflate what Martin Amis said with legitimate criticism of an ideology, which is just wrong. Martin Amis called for all Muslims in this country to be targeted, especially ones that look a bit foreign, and collectively punish them. How that can be confused with a critique of the Qur’an’s position on women or homosexuality I don’t know.


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  1. amis

    [...] he said. ???As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on thehttp://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/2091Adrian Hamilton: McEwan’s attack on Islam reveals only his ignorance Independent It was no doubt a [...]




  1. Ala — on 23rd June, 2008 at 8:40 pm  

    I’ve only ever read one of McEwan’s novels. It wasn’t compelling or memorable in the least. Maybe I was too young, maybe I need to give him another chance, and maybe he needs to get some balls when it comes to criticising members of his fraternity.

  2. DavidMWW — on 23rd June, 2008 at 8:52 pm  

    Martin Amis called for all Muslims in this country to be targeted, especially ones that look a bit foreign, and collectively punish them.

    No, he did not.

  3. BenSix — on 23rd June, 2008 at 9:06 pm  

    “No, he did not.”

    True, he said “people who look like they’re from the Middle East”.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/sep/10/september11.politicsphilosophyandsociety1

    Ben

  4. Rumbold — on 23rd June, 2008 at 9:15 pm  

    DavidMWW:

    Err.. a direct quote:

    “What sort of suff­­er­­­ing? Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan…”

  5. BenSix — on 23rd June, 2008 at 9:26 pm  

    “Err.. a direct quote:”

    I think MMW would argue that Amis only had a “a definite urge”, not an active and longstanding prejudice.

    Ben

  6. Roger — on 23rd June, 2008 at 9:52 pm  

    The thing about “definite urges” is that you do not give way to them.

  7. Matt — on 23rd June, 2008 at 10:12 pm  

    Well, that’s a rather old story revived. (My thoughts from back then.) Amis was quite clear that he didn’t view his urge for retribution to be moral. He was simply describing it, and we should encourage that kind of honesty if we want serious discussions of racism. Whether he is or isn’t a racist (from my post, I’m very clear on the statement itself, which I still find problematic), he surely isn’t the sort of person we would want to marginalize. Or we’d marginalize the lot of society in an effort to create an ever smaller space free from bigots. In other words, we’d change absolutely nothing about the greater society.

    The problem isn’t that McEwan tries “to conflate what Martin Amis said with legitimate criticism of an ideology.” That seems to me to be a misreading, and a polemical misreading at that, of everything everyone said. The problem is the generalization about charges of racism. Presumably, “As soon as a writer expresses an opinion…” we can dismiss it without considering the merits. Now that’s a way to shut down a discussion.

  8. soru — on 23rd June, 2008 at 10:24 pm  

    Err.. a direct quote:

    Except that you can easily do a google search and find the article in which those words first appear, and you will find the author is listed as one Terry Eagleton.

    Some people deal with bad thoughts by externalising them, inventing an imaginary character who holds them, a Slim Shady, or a ‘Martin Amis’.

    Others acknowledge the bad thoughts as things they themself half-think, before rejecting them.

    I don’t see a lot of moral distinction between those two literary techniques – they are just different forms of words to express the same idea. In either case, if you strip out the context, you can produce a quote from Nabokov advocating under-age sex, or Chomsky promoting the invasion of Iraq to steal it’s oil.

    Kind of cheeky to blame Eagleton’s racism on a real person, however.

    That said, you can see why the Brit-Lit types tend to go for an argument based on the principle ‘islamism = bad’. For most of them, 9/11, and the persecution of their acquaintance Rushdie will be the two events they associate with Islam or muslims. So it’s the obvious choice for a simple, non-racist explanation that gets those two cases right.

    Not sure it explains much beyond those two, though.

  9. BenSix — on 23rd June, 2008 at 10:28 pm  

    Amis also says that he wishes airport staff would “stick to people who look like they’re from the Middle East”, claims that Shia Muslims represent the “dreamy and poetic” side of Islam and cites Mark Steyn as a reliable source for statistics on demographics.

    Prejudiced or not, he isn’t worth listening to.

    Ben

  10. Sid — on 23rd June, 2008 at 11:44 pm  

    Others acknowledge the bad thoughts as things they themself half-think, before rejecting them.

    That’s a great excuse if you’re scrubbing yourself in the shower while listening to the new Elbow album. But not very good if you happen to be thinking these “bad thoughts” out aloud to a journalist with a tape recorder, taking your interview.

  11. R E Farnos — on 23rd June, 2008 at 11:46 pm  

    Evidently Soru didn’t do a particualrly indept Google search, and then jumped to concluesions.

    Amis’s disgraceful comments in fact appeared in an interview with Ginny Dougary and were first published in Times Magazine in September 2006. Moreover Martin Amis has never denied making the remarks. A copy of the article can be found on Ginny’s website:

    http://www.ginnydougary.co.uk/2006/09/17/the-voice-of-experience/

  12. soru — on 24th June, 2008 at 12:38 am  

    Which doesn’t change the fact that it was Eagleton who wrote those words, not as something spoken in conversation and paraphrased by a journalist, but in a considered article published in a major newspaper.

    One is a failure of media-savvy, one is deliberate provocation, with an agenda that looks to me to be making a lot of racist assumptions, to say the least.

    One set of words is placed in the mouth of an unnamed hypothetical person who thinks that way, and the other is placed in the mouth of a person called ‘Martin Amis’ who is claimed to think that way. I don’t see any distinction that makes taking a quote out of context in one case as ok, but in the other not.

  13. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 12:57 am  

    Which doesn’t change the fact that that’s not McEwan’s defence of Amis at all, as Rumbold has rightly stated. McEwan is att least smart enough to avoid the embarrassing absurdity of defending Amis’s comments as being taken “Out of context”. Instead, in a rush to defend his friend from charges of racism, he conflates an hatred of Islamism with an urge to lock up people who look like Muslims. Maybe he’s playing a coded literary thought experiment that only arch, middle class fans of his work will understand.

  14. Sunny — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:03 am  

    and we should encourage that kind of honesty if we want serious discussions of racism.

    No no no no no. This is the encouragement of stupid thoughts like internment, until they become part of the national discourse and stupid politicians start taking them seriously.

    I read that article, and I thought: stupid author wants to protect his mate. *shrug* who cares.

  15. Bikhair — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:21 am  

    Matt,

    “He was simply describing it, and we should encourage that kind of honesty if we want serious discussions of racism.”

    Bullshit. Now if any of these Muslims said how he had an urge to throw homosexuals off of buildings you wouldnt suggest that we needed to hear these atttitudes in order to have a serious discussion about homophobia. Get real.

    Is there anything that is beyond the pale? No, not when it concerns Muslims.

  16. fugstar — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:25 am  

    its a sign of the normalisation of whitethink about islamistas that this statement from an educated person has currency.

    “..I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on – we know it well”

  17. Bikhair — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:26 am  

    Sunny,

    Couldnt agree more. Best only use that language to have serious discussions about fetuses.

  18. Matt — on 24th June, 2008 at 3:07 am  

    What I didn’t say was that we shouldn’t critique those thoughts. Generally, I’m not a fan of absolutist free speech, but that’s not what I’m arguing for here. I’m arguing that we should encourage self-awareness.

  19. Roger — on 24th June, 2008 at 3:49 am  

    “Now if any of these Muslims said how he had an urge to throw homosexuals off of buildings you wouldnt suggest that we needed to hear these atttitudes in order to have a serious discussion about homophobia. ”

    Many muslims do have an urge to throw homosexuals off buildings or- depending on their interpretation of islam- do other unpleasant things to them. They think god told them to. We may not need to hear these atttitudes in order to have a serious discussion about homophobia; we need to remember them to have a serious discussion about islam.

  20. Bikhair — on 24th June, 2008 at 4:26 am  

    Roger,

    But these men were discussing Islam were they? They are talking about Muslims. Last time I remembered, ideas werent sacrosanct in the West. People are however.

    So I have to qoute Rumbold on this one: Ian McEwan is trying to conflate what Martin Amis said with legitimate criticism of an ideology, which is just wrong. Martin Amis called for all Muslims in this country to be targeted, especially ones that look a bit foreign, and collectively punish them.

    Are discussion about Islam is going to provide the spring board for the urges of Amis?

  21. digitalcntrl — on 24th June, 2008 at 4:55 am  

    “Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.”

    Umm, isn’t this already happening? It is in the US at least.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6618869

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91658107

  22. Cover Drive — on 24th June, 2008 at 6:50 am  

    As soon as a writer criticises Islamism, that extremely intolerant version of Islam that threatens to destroy our way of life, the libertarians and lefties jump up to call him a racist.

    You’ve just proved this statement of his right:

    “As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on the left leaps to his feet and claims that because the majority of Muslims are
    dark-skinned, he who criticises it is racist.”

    The problem with the left in this country is that, in their attempt to celebrate cultural diversity, they are inadvertently challenging the universality of races and thereby agreeing with the racists that races are different. Both the racists and the left are in fact wrong.

    The only way to defeat Islamism is for Muslims themselves to condemn it without lefties jumping up to defend them against ‘racist’ attacks by the media.

    I read that article, and I thought: stupid author wants to protect his mate. *shrug* who cares.

    McEwan happens to be quite a gifted writer, having won the Booker Prize. Don’t you think you’re being a bit unfair?

  23. halima — on 24th June, 2008 at 7:17 am  

    For me the issue isn’t really about McEwan. It’s the fall out and discussion that comes after his interventions.

    ‘The only way to defeat Islamism is for Muslims themselves to condemn it without lefties jumping up to defend them against ‘racist’ attacks by the media.’

    Actually everyone should condemn bad practice wherever it comes from – and Muslims don’t have more responsibility than non-Muslims, that’s the point about discrimination, we all fight it on the left, and yes, we don’t need to be ‘defended’ as such but the principles of anti-racism do need to be defended by all.

    Who are the Lefties in the UK? I consider myself Leftie and also, Muslim, and sometimes South Asian… The Left has for a long time been heteregenous in character.

    That said, I am a huge fan of Ian McEwan , but probably will ignore his views on X and Y whatever they may be. The Booker Prize credits respect his art, not his political views. It’s just that he probably gets more airtime for this views on gender, or religion or whatever, because he’s a public figure. Sunny is right to say it’s a not big deal.

    What is a big deal is that he is a fantatic writer – and one of the finest English writers in the country at the momoment.

  24. Unitalian — on 24th June, 2008 at 7:32 am  

    Amis is a novelist, not a politician. He was exploring his responses to Islamic terrorism. This was then used by certain, cynical individuals to advance their political agenda and smear anyone who expressed a challenging opinion on this subject a racist and thereby close down the argument. Frankly I found this far more appalling than Amis’s sentiments – but then that probably makes me, in some people’s eyes (the kind of people who would have made great commissars) a racist.

  25. soru — on 24th June, 2008 at 8:12 am  

    Maybe he’s playing a coded literary thought experiment that only arch, middle class fans of his work will understand.

    That kind of speculation isn’t a particularly complex literary technique: it was used in last Saturday’s Doctor Who, which has a target audience that includes 9 year olds.

    Politicians, who have to accept any sequence of words they say can be cut out and used as a sound-bite, have to learn to play by political rules, and never speculate, never answer a hypothetical questions. Otherwise the answer to ‘what would you do if France nuked us?’ becomes the headline ‘nuking of France planned’.

    Those are the rules of politics, if you play that game you can’t argue with them any more than you can with the offside rule in football. Complaining you were quoted out of context is like complaining the opposition back four suddenly ran forward just before you were passed to.

    But outside that context, the rules are different, or should be.

    If a preacher in a mosque uses the same form of language: ‘you might initially think “A”, but that would be wrong: the prophet himself…’, then no doubt the tabloids would have a field day, quoting him as saying just A.

    But that would be stupidly ignoring the context of the speech in order to produce race-baiting bullshit propaganda, and so bad.

    If a PhD student wrote a thesis on Islamism, then had their work confiscated by the police, that would be stupidly ignoring the academic context in order to hassle a minority, and so bad.

    ‘Novelism’ is, in it’s own way, at least a mythology, maybe a religion, something that attempts a complete moral explanation of the world. One of it’s core tenets is ‘The line between good and evil is drawn not between nations or parties, but through every human heart’.

    Stupidly ignoring that cultural context is just as bad as in the other cases: all that kind of quote-games ever produces is bullshit race-hate propaganda, and it would improve the world slightly if people were less willing to fall for it.

  26. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 8:37 am  

    ‘Novelism’ is, in it’s own way, at least a mythology, maybe a religion, something that attempts a complete moral explanation of the world. One of it’s core tenets is ‘The line between good and evil is drawn not between nations or parties, but through every human heart’.

    and

    Amis is a novelist, not a politician. He was exploring his responses to Islamic terrorism.

    If you want to appreciate how anti-Islamic (not anti-Islamist) criticism should *really* be done, then I suggest you read V S Naipaul who has written not one, but two books searingly critical of Islam, the religion. But he has done it in pristine, unambiguous language. Only really stupid people woudl see the need to defend his books. No need to defend genuine criticism as literary exploration of a religion when it is done by someone who does it with the right *intention*. And the key word here is *intention* not a brutish and snarky injection of shitty racism into our public conciousness, which is what Amis is culpable of.

    Martin Amis, as a novellist, in my opinion, isn’t fit to shine Naipaul’s shoes. If a novellist is excused of race-baiting language on the pretext of “Novellism” and the pleas of “He’s a racist” then those, who defend him, should be able to explain in what context he was making those remarks, rather than tell us to appreciate literary devices, like thought experiments, in the abstract. Your defence seems to be a silly attempt to make ambiguous phrases like the following :

    “What sort of suff­­er­­­ing? Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan.”

    No one expects a poet to speak in verse in his day to day language. Those who are defending Amis seem to be suggesting that the man writes novels in his speech in a stupid attempt to defend his opinions.

    Pathetic.

  27. DavidMWW — on 24th June, 2008 at 9:48 am  

    Rumbold, do you have children? There’s a definite urge sometimes – don’t you have it? – to put them across your knee and give them a damn good spanking. Or to lock them in a cupboard until they calm down.

    I hereby declare that I do not advocate the beating and incarceration of children, which is neither moral nor efficacious. I am describing an urge that many parents feel from time to time.

    You could argue that Amis is a bigot, a xenophobe, a racist, or simply an idiot. All of those are defensible positions, and you are entitled to your own opinions. But you are not entitled to your own facts.

    Amis did not call for all Muslims in this country to be targetted and collectively punished. It isn’t true, so you shouldn’t say it.

  28. Cover Drive — on 24th June, 2008 at 9:58 am  

    Actually everyone should condemn bad practice wherever it comes from – and Muslims don’t have more responsibility than non-Muslims, that’s the point about discrimination, we all fight it on the left, and yes, we don’t need to be ‘defended’ as such but the principles of anti-racism do need to be defended by all.

    Yes, I totally agree but the problem is whenever there is any criticism of Islamism the left always jump up and shout ‘racism’. It really doesn’t help especially if it stifles a sensible debate.

    Islamism can only be defeated by the Muslim community itself. If Muslims in this country actually issued a fatwa against terrorism I think that will do more good than anything else to defeat Islamism, as it is after all an ideology.

    The problem in Britain is that the multi-cultural policies of the last thirty years, which have typically been championed by the left, haven’t worked well. We’ve got people from different communities living parallel lives with little interaction with other. I think this has actually contributed to the conservatism within Britain’s Muslim community. It’s not just a Muslim problem, it’s more of a multi-cultural dilemma.

    We need to have a shared set of beliefs and values that binds us together. I think in the US this is less of a problem but here in Britain and other places in Europe, social policies have tended to treat people differently depending on their ethnic background.

  29. Unitalian — on 24th June, 2008 at 10:09 am  

    Sid – the point is that he’s not a politician but an artist, but I don’t expect you to get that anymore than I’d expect you to get the Joke.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Joke-Milan-Kundera/dp/0571166938

    ;-)

  30. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 10:32 am  

    Unitalian

    As artists go, I support and love the ones who take on religion and racism, such as Andreas Serrano (“Piss Christ”), rather than middle-class literary reactionaries who adopt racist language in an attempt to infuse their work with faux-shock appeal.

    And as for your Kundera reference, in a totalitarian state, it would artists like Serrano who would be getting locked up, not Amis.

  31. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 10:36 am  

    Amis did not call for all Muslims in this country to be targetted and collectively punished. It isn’t true, so you shouldn’t say it.

    No that’s right. He called for people who look like Arabs and Pakistanis to be targetted and collectively punished. Amis takes pains to reinforce that difference. ;)

  32. soru — on 24th June, 2008 at 11:18 am  

    If a novellist is excused of race-baiting language on the pretext of “Novellism” and the pleas of “He’s a racist” then those, who defend him, should be able to explain in what context he was making those remarks, rather than tell us to appreciate literary devices, like thought experiments, in the abstract.

    Ok, to lay it out in terms Rusell T Davies didn’t think necessary to explain to 9 year olds:

    1. the Holocaust was bad.

    2. civilised human beings, culturally rather like us, did that.

    3. therefor, in the wrong circumstances, it could happen here

    4. that would be bad, so we should think about how to avoid that.

    You don’t seem like you would be lacking the cultural context to get such basic nuances. So it is that you just do not remotely care about the truth as long as you have a quote you can use as a weapon?

    If so, are you finding it an effective weapon? Is it winning you a lot of arguments, persuading new allies of the rightness of your cause? Or not?

    It’s one thing to say that his analysis of Islamism is simplistic, making the key mistake of trying to tie together everything bad that happens to be associated with any part of the Islamic world into one political movement. That’s as fruitless as thinking there is a single all-in-one solution to the arms trade, global warming, and binge drinking.

    It’s one thing to say that he spent too long in america, and so came to treat seriously the kind of Steynian racist bilge that is popular there, regarding it as something to be argued with in detail rather than diagnosed and dismissed.

    It’s completely different, and a lie, to say he wants to go round locking up muslims. Trying to spread that lie is the direct equivalent of spreading baby-eating rumours about Muslims.

    And as for your Kundera reference, in a totalitarian state, it would artists like Serrano who would be getting locked up, not Amis.

    Solzenitzen, a conservative nationalistic old bugger rather reminiscent of Amis snr, would not, I think, agreee unreservedly with that.

  33. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 11:27 am  

    soru,
    Let’s analyse some reactions to “in-context” artistic criticism:

    1) Criticising religion = perfectly acceptable

    2) Criticising Islamism = support of anti-fascism

    3) Calling for people to be incarcerated and deprived of thier basic rights depending on whether they look like they are Arabs or Pakistani = ???

    Where would you place (3) in relation to the first two forms of politico-cultural analysis?

  34. halima — on 24th June, 2008 at 11:44 am  

    “Yes, I totally agree but the problem is whenever there any criticism of Islamism the left always jump up and shout ‘racism’. It really doesn’t help especially if it stifles a sensible debate.”

    I will ask again who is the left that you have in mind? This is blog is representative of some parts of the Left in Britain – and we are not having a stifled discussion at the moment .. on this blog.

    “Islamism can only be defeated by the Muslim community itself. If Muslims in this country actually issued a fatwa against terrorism I think that will do more good than anything else to defeat Islamism, as it is after all an ideology.”

    I am not an expert on Islam any more than anyone Christian is an expert on Christianity as guess you have to study theology .. but. let me try and engage. Trouble with talking about a ‘Mulsim community’ is that well .. where do we start – the globe and the Muslims in it – are they all supposed to have one view? How so, if it spans Indonesia, Nepal and Germany? The same could be said of Christains and Christiann communities? Where we do we start – we might try and take the Church of England I suppose but then there are different sects of Christianity…I’d hate to conflate Christianity The other complication is that Islam doesn’t have the same organised theological heads/leadership in the way Christianity might. I am not sure that’s it’s needed.

    Islam in Britain, as in Islam in Bangladesh needs to be discussed in relation to broader structures for civic leadership – there is no established Mosque of UK, Bangladesh, Saudi as such.

    And on Fatwas – not sure that fatwas have any legal meaning in a country that doesn’t practice Islamic law, but yes, many Mullahs, Imams and Muslims without established leadership roles will condenm and do condemn terrorism … Pity we don’t hear their voices , but we hear the voices of the extremists and public figures and novelists who express opinions about Islam. Who knows why .. The silent majority in Muslim communitiES is never given a plaform – but the crazies are ..so where to go?

    Yes, people talk about multiculturalism failing in the UK.. I’m not sure that it even took off in the UK in the last 30 years.. If we mean, steel bands and samosoes, sure , but anything else, I am not sure what multiculturlism means in tangile terms… yet we all agree that it failed…

  35. soru — on 24th June, 2008 at 12:00 pm  

    Where would you place (3) in relation to the first two forms of politico-cultural analysis?

    or:

    1. wearing turbans = perfectly acceptable
    2. forced marriages = oppression of women
    3. baby-eating = ??

    One of these things is not like the other: not only is it is not true, it is the kind of untruth that it is very hard to see as an honest, agenda-free accidental mistake.

  36. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 12:09 pm  

    One of these things is not like the other: not only is it is not true, it is the kind of untruth that it is very hard to see as an honest, agenda-free accidental mistake.

    Which part of the quote by Amis is “not true”:

    “Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan”

    If you’re going to level the accusation that we are taking that quote out of context, I think the onus is on you to explain what the context is in concrete terms rather than in the abstract.

  37. Cover Drive — on 24th June, 2008 at 12:51 pm  

    I will ask again who is the left that you have in mind? This is blog is representative of some parts of the Left in Britain – and we are not having a stifled discussion at the moment .. on this blog.

    You know who the left are – people who are on the left of the political spectrum. Please don’t try to make it more complex than it is, and as you have rightly said, this blog represents ‘some parts of the Left in Britain’. I’ve never been very right wing myself but I don’t agree with many things championed by the left today.

    Trouble with talking about a ‘Mulsim community’ is that well .. where do we start – the globe and the Muslims in it – are they all supposed to have one view?

    Individual Muslims are very different from one another, I agree, but the classic argument from the left is that we need to treat Muslims differently, as though they are one single entity when really they are not, but that’s the problem. When the British lived in India during colonial rule they didn’t mix with the Indians. Likewise, immigrants in this country have been allowed to live as they would have done in rural India or Pakistan. There are many people who’ve been living here for more than thirty years who can’t even speak English. Does that really help integration?

    Getting back to my main point about Ian McEwan, he’s attacking Islamism. Then there’s the all too familiar joining up of the dots to that horrible subject of racism.

  38. Refresh — on 24th June, 2008 at 12:58 pm  

    To be honest a far more telling was McEwen’s view of the US Christian Fundamentalists – whom he describes as ‘absurd’.

    Not dangerous, just absurd.

  39. soru — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:21 pm  

    Which part of the quote by Amis is “not true”:

    The point where you attribute it to Amis as a statement of his views. If that’s acceptable, you could do the same to Eagleton or, indeed, yourself: you just used it in a way almost exactly equivalently to the way Amis did: as a straw man, a rhetorical device to argue against.

    The two statements ‘Amis wants to deport middle-eastern types’ and ‘sid wants to do so’ have exactly the same amount and type of evidence to support them. Maybe in some future argument, those words _you_ just said will now be used against you, presented as your views. And you will be the one saying ‘I was quoted out of context, using a rhetorical device…’.

    And whoever is arguinmg with you will come back and say:

    Which part of the quote by Sid is “not true”:

  40. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:25 pm  

    The point where you attribute it to Amis as a statement of his views.

    Who’s views are they? Yours? mine? Who was he speaking for?

    And any chance of defining what that all-important “context” is in absolute concrete terms?

  41. Rumbold — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:31 pm  

    It is a direct quote from Amis. Check the link I posted- it goes straight to an Amis interview, and in it is the direct quote. This is not a debatable point.

  42. Rumbold — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:40 pm  

    Nobody is calling Ian McEwan racist by the way. What I and others take issue with is his attempt to label Martin Amis’ words as some sort of legitimate criticism of Islamic theology, when in fact Martin Amis was urging:

    “Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.”

    There is a pretty big gap between that and a critical look at what some Muslims believe.

    On the free speech side, recently a new anti-free speech sect has emerged (and is in evidence here). Traditionally those opposed to free speech used to say things like “freedom of expression doesn’t extend to mocking religion” and suchlike. This new sect instead attacks any criticism of a controversal speaker as “an attack on free speech”, so in this case if I criticise Ian McEwan for defending Martin Amis that “is an attack on free speech”. It isn’t; if you really do believe in freedom of speech then you have to accept that while person x can say something controversal, person y is equally at liberty to criticise person x.

  43. Parvinder Singh — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:50 pm  

    There is no doubt (my view) that Amis overstepped the mark when he clumsily tries to criticise a religion, which is perfectly ok, but then starts on a very dangerous path of attacking a people, which is not. But let’s not get over excited by ending the narrative. He did subsequently say his remarks were not “advocating anything” but were ‘a thought experiment’, ‘merely conversationally describing an urge – an urge that soon wore off’. In his defence, if we can sensible allow him, he made the remarks soon after the failed plot to blow up 10 trans-Atlantic planes, during the children’s summer holidays in August 2006. We all have our breaking points, in venerable times, and Amis’s one was this.

    In ‘The Age of Horrorism’ he tries to clear some of his self-made mist: “We respect Muhammad. But we do not respect Muhammad Atta.” and later, “Naturally we respect Islam. But we do not respect Islamism.” and later he stated: ‘harassing the Muslim community in Britain would be neither moral nor efficacious’.

    Some may be surprised, or not, that Salman Rushdie (another author who has had the wrath of Terry Eagleton) has come to the defence of Amis: ‘freedom of speech is not a tea party — it begins with defending the right to remarks you find offensive.’ and ‘it’s not helpful to make accusations of racism against one of Britain’s most serious literary figures.’ ‘Amis has a right to find certain things hateful and has a right to hate those who perpetrated them’

    Should we, oh free speechers and libertarians, not give Amis the benefit of doubt?

  44. soru — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:52 pm  

    And any chance of defining what that all-important “context” is in absolute concrete terms?

    As I said in #32, the context is that the Holocaust was a bad thing, so any ‘urges’ that lead towards policies that start to resemble that are obviously inherently suspect.

    Really this stuff should just go without saying – I really can’t believe you, Sunny, or Rumbold, are debating this point in honesty, actually think inside your own head that what you are claiming is an accurate representation of external reality.

    If someone said the Archbishop of Canterbury wanted to throw gays from windows, and produced a quote that could, if you squint, be read as supporting that, surely your bullshit detector would go off, and you would start to wonder who and why was spreading that particular lie?

    What’s different here, what makes you think the accusation is plausible enough to be worth denying?

  45. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 1:56 pm  

    What’s different here, what makes you think the accusation is plausible enough to be worth denying?

    Tautology?

  46. DavidMWW — on 24th June, 2008 at 2:06 pm  

    I am all for free speech – for better or for worse. I am also of the opinion that truthful speech is better than untruthful speech (I’m old-fashioned like that).

    Amis did not call for all Muslims (or Arab- or Pakistani-looking people) in this country to be targetted and collectively punished, any more than I (in post 27) called for children to be beaten and locked in cupboards.

  47. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 2:08 pm  

    Amis did not call for all Muslims (or Arab- or Pakistani-looking people) in this country to be targetted and collectively punished, any more than I (in post 27) called for children to be beaten and locked in cupboards.

    Just when we were almost getting to agreeing on the “context” we now have blanket denial. ;)

  48. Refresh — on 24th June, 2008 at 2:15 pm  

    ‘Amis did not call for all Muslims (or Arab- or Pakistani-looking people) in this country to be targetted and collectively punished, any more than I (in post 27) called for children to be beaten and locked in cupboards.’

    I don’t know if it was collective punishment he was dreaming about, but one thing is for sure his intellectual experiments are far more dangerous to western society than it ever will be to any other parts of the world. He is of no consequence outside of the US and UK (and the same applies to McEwen and Hitchen).

    Amis and mates, are in the process of being rejected outright by the US electorate – that is the change that the Obama campaign seems to be harnessing.

    So the final response to these intellectual opportunists, is a political one with the coup de grace to be delivered in November.

    After that no one will care one jot about Amis’ musings. Or the defence thereof.

  49. DavidMWW — on 24th June, 2008 at 2:20 pm  

    Sid, what do you mean “now” we have blanket denial? I have been flatly denying that Amis “called for” collective punishment of Muslims in ever post since #2!

  50. halima — on 24th June, 2008 at 2:21 pm  

    What is the left?

    I am not being complicated – just keeping things very simple, which is that I am Muslim and left wing and I am not shouting ‘racism’ so not true that the Left always shouts racism when we discuss ‘Muslim’ issues.

    I don’t follow the analogy about Brits in India and immigrants in the UK. But would most probably disgree with the sentiments expressed in this para.

  51. Kulvinder — on 24th June, 2008 at 2:22 pm  

    Soru you’ve completely confused me.

    edit: Oh i see this is a debate about whether he called for collective punishment or said there (i took it as a royal we) was an urge for collective punishment.

  52. soru — on 24th June, 2008 at 2:25 pm  

    Just when we were almost getting to agreeing on the “context” we now have blanket denial

    Just to be unambiguously clear, you actually do think that ‘Amis called for Arab- or Pakistani-looking people to be collectively punished’ to be a true statement, one that describes the world we live in?

    In other words, holding that belief, you would expect that if you asked Amis the question ‘should Arabs be collectively punished’ his answer would be some variant of ‘yes’, and if he said ‘no’, you would be surprised?

    Or is it just something you find it useful to claim, without actually thinking it to be particularly true?

  53. Refresh — on 24th June, 2008 at 2:39 pm  

    I think we are heading into the ‘meaning of man’ territory.

    So let me start.

    What is an urge?

    Does an urge define the man?

    Is an urge the manifestation of a man’s inner-most desires, fears or prejudices?

    Is an Amis’ urge the intellectual equivalent of a burp?

    ….feel free to add your own.

  54. Kulvinder — on 24th June, 2008 at 2:42 pm  

    Re-reading all the links id take it as given that Amis had those sorts of opinions; arguments about whether he meant what he said are neither here nor there. At the very least Martin Amis is a man who lacks the courage of his convictions; i think far less of him as a writer for not being concise and consistent in his arguments than for having ‘potentially’ prejudical opinions.

  55. Matt — on 24th June, 2008 at 3:19 pm  

    This new sect instead attacks any criticism of a controversal speaker as “an attack on free speech”, so in this case if I criticise Ian McEwan for defending Martin Amis that “is an attack on free speech”.

    Now, this is entirely sensible, and important. Too bad most of the debate here avoids this point to focus on misrepresenting what Amis said in the first place. He was not urging anything. He described an urge he had, clearly without endorsing it (although without rejecting it outright until later).

    Nobody is calling Ian McEwan racist by the way.

    While I don’t know that I would describe him as a racist, I take great offense at his comments. Clearly an attempt to enforce privilege and maintain a relationship of oppression within the context of the discussion. It’s that you have to challenge for the discussion to get anywhere.

  56. Cover Drive — on 24th June, 2008 at 3:37 pm  

    What is the left?

    There’s some information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_far_left

    I don’t follow the analogy about Brits in India and immigrants in the UK.

    The Brits actively pursued racist policies in India during colonial rule and generally didn’t mix with the Indians. When Indians and Pakistanis came here there was no real attempt to integrate them with the rest of society. It didn’t help that many immigrants didn’t know English, although the more educated ones were able to integrate better. Instead there was a tacit acceptance that different ethnic groups were different and they could live the way they wanted to live. Then 7/7 happened and we realised we had a problem.

    There’s an interesting book coming out by an Indian Muslim writer called Kenan Malik. There’s a review here:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bdf3aa02-38da-11dd-8aed-0000779fd2ac.html


    Whereas once progressive thinkers advocated treating everybody equally despite their differences, they now focus on treating people differently because of their differences. This misplaced respect for diversity leads us to brand complex communities with one mark, such as colour or creed. The consequence is not only to carve up society along ethnic lines, but also to strengthen the conservative forces within communities. Thus we have made the mullahs the mouthpiece of people who might previously have seen their Islamic heritage as only a part of their identity.

    At least we can agree past multi-cultural policies haven’t been entirely successful.

  57. DavidMWW — on 24th June, 2008 at 3:42 pm  

    On the free speech side, recently a new anti-free speech sect has emerged (and is in evidence here). Traditionally those opposed to free speech used to say things like “freedom of expression doesn’t extend to mocking religion” and suchlike. This new sect instead attacks any criticism of a controversal speaker as “an attack on free speech”, so in this case if I criticise Ian McEwan for defending Martin Amis that “is an attack on free speech”.

    Actually, Rumbold, I think you got away with this bit rather too lightly. Who are the members of this new free speech sect? Where do they make this accusation to you? You have put it in quotes, but a page search reveals that you are the only one who said it – and I can’t find anything written by anyone here that resembles such a charge.

    The reason I challenged your “Amis called for all Muslims to be targetted” statement right from the start was not because it was an attack on free speech, which it clearly isn’t. I challenged it because it isn’t true.

    It still isn’t true.

  58. Indrak — on 24th June, 2008 at 5:00 pm  

    #57:
    nevertheless, if you are into free speech, what’s the truth got to do with anything?

  59. DavidMWW — on 24th June, 2008 at 5:20 pm  

    Indrak, there is no contradiction in being pro free speech and anti-bullshit at the same time. In fact one supports the other. A person is free to spout bullshit, just as another is free to challenge it. In this way, the truth is more likely to emerge than if either the bullshitter or the challenger is silenced.

  60. Indrak — on 24th June, 2008 at 6:08 pm  

    #59:
    logically, there is.
    Accepting your qualification, there is no set of truths universally held, and any such holding of itself wld be insufficient to show that truth as obtaining.
    Moreover, in that case there would be little need to argue.

    This alone demonstrates that any other avowal of essentialist ‘free speech’ irrespective of what may ensue, is at best misguided.

    Social truth accrues from dissenting intelligence allying with the oppressed/exploited. This is opposed by reactionary intelligence, the kind that defends Amis.
    Racism is a somewhat reddish herring – collectively we are ‘over the hill’, it can’t be credibly defended. It’s phlogiston-like. That’s a different matter from seeking to class some people as an ‘other’, different to ‘us’, and that tendancy is now increasing again.
    Gas chambers do not simply get built under planning laws like supermarkets do, the ground has to be be prepared..;
    if they are to come again, it will be sooner than the last ones were from now.

  61. soru — on 24th June, 2008 at 6:37 pm  

    Indrak, one question.

    Do you find your rhetorical strategy, your use of language, effective? Have you ever, in the course of you life, persuaded anyone of anything, changed or influenced anyone’s opinion?

    In fact, have you ever succeeded in getting somone to even understand what you are trying to say?

    (not that I bat 100% at that one myself, but I try…)

  62. Indrak — on 24th June, 2008 at 7:07 pm  

    #61:
    Minimally effective, so more than most.
    So for the 2nd of your ‘one question’, certainly, on occasion. ‘easy come, easy go..’

    I’m no longer 18, and can see that most people rarely actually listen/engage let alone think originally, but merely occupy positions and spout in accordance to what they currently regard as sense.
    So, eg, I’m not impressed when people talk about the status of women in other countries when they themselves, as a reactionary, would have acted in a specifically identifiable way but a few generations ago. Worse still, for they now trade on the very gains won by those they opposed formerly as their own..

    Any effort I make w/c/should be worthwhile if actually attended to.
    I’d rather be relatively concise and require a little bit of effort to be read,
    than follow the 2 obvious other strategies.

  63. halima — on 24th June, 2008 at 7:14 pm  

    Cover Drive

    Cheers for the ref on wiki – must include that when i read New Left Review these days.

    Kenan Malik is first and foremost a Marxist and has been chief speaker at Living Marxist conferences for eons – or the countless times I’ve heard him speak as a student. Interesting that he’s called a Muslim writer these days.

    I still I don’t follow the analogy about Brits in India and immigrants in the UK.

    Multiculturalism in the past didn’t fail, I said it never took off. Plus there are competing views of multiculturalism in US, Australian and Indian cotext – and it’s never been clear to me what distinguishes British multiculturalism from examples in other countries – except that in Canada and Austrailia they might have had more success.

    I

  64. Rumbold — on 24th June, 2008 at 7:45 pm  

    Soru:

    “Just to be unambiguously clear, you actually do think that ‘Amis called for Arab- or Pakistani-looking people to be collectively punished’ to be a true statement, one that describes the world we live in?

    In other words, holding that belief, you would expect that if you asked Amis the question ’should Arabs be collectively punished’ his answer would be some variant of ‘yes’, and if he said ‘no’, you would be surprised?”

    Yes.

    Matt:

    “He was not urging anything. He described an urge he had, clearly without endorsing it (although without rejecting it outright until later).”

    I think that if you talk about your views on something and don’t add any caveats, then surely you are endorsing it?

    DavidMWW:

    “Actually, Rumbold, I think you got away with this bit rather too lightly. Who are the members of this new free speech sect? Where do they make this accusation to you? You have put it in quotes, but a page search reveals that you are the only one who said it – and I can’t find anything written by anyone here that resembles such a charge.”

    It was meant as a summary. Here are my quotable examples:

    Cover Drive in 22#: “As soon as a writer criticises Islamism, that extremely intolerant version of Islam that threatens to destroy our way of life, the libertarians and lefties jump up to call him a racist.”

    Unitalian in 24#: “Amis is a novelist, not a politician. He was exploring his responses to Islamic terrorism. This was then used by certain, cynical individuals to advance their political agenda and smear anyone who expressed a challenging opinion on this subject a racist and thereby close down the argument.”

  65. BenSix — on 24th June, 2008 at 8:07 pm  

    “This was then used by certain, cynical individuals to advance their political agenda and smear anyone who expressed a challenging opinion on this subject a racist and thereby close down the argument.”

    I wouldn’t say that Amis has a challenging opinion, but that he has a verbosity that conveniently veils the platitudionous nature of his recent writings.

    He appears to have minimal understanding of Islam, and certainly no insight into it. Consider his bemusing claim that Shia Muslims ‘speak for the more dreamy and poetic face of Islam’ (conveniently forgetting his old friend, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini).

    He even dabbles in demographics, and promotes the scare statistics of Mark Steyn. Skim-read that and it appears to be Melanie Phillips.

  66. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 8:28 pm  

    Matt:
    He was not urging anything. He described an urge he had, clearly without endorsing it (although without rejecting it outright until later).

    Can someone please explain where in the interview Mr Amis makes a categorical statement to say that he does not endorse those views? Did I miss it? Have I misunderstand Amis by not being able to *infer* unsaid, built-in caveat to his thought experiments?

    soru:
    Really this stuff should just go without saying – I really can’t believe you, Sunny, or Rumbold, are debating this point in honesty, actually think inside your own head that what you are claiming is an accurate representation of external reality.

    You seem to have located Amis’s missing caveat. Can you please share with us where it was? This may go towards understanding Amis’ “accurate representation of external reality”.

  67. DavidMWW — on 24th June, 2008 at 8:36 pm  

    Rumbold, if you think that the statement “Amis called for Muslims to be collectively punished” is true, then you must equally believe that the statement “DavidMWW called for children to be beaten and incarcerated” is true.

    You have equal (ie, zero) grounds for both beliefs given that in #27,
    1) I did not actually advocate this action, just said I occasionally felt the urge
    2) I later explicitly stated that I do not advocate this action

    Exactly the structure of Amis’s statement, in fact.

    So do you believe that I called for children to be beaten and incarcerated? If not, why not?

  68. Refresh — on 24th June, 2008 at 8:54 pm  

    DavidMWW

    Be reasonable. There are some parents who do act on their urges, and have incarcerated and done much much worse to and with their children.

    We only have your word that you are not that type of parent.

    So with Amis. How do you know? You can’t know. The question is probably more of was he willing others to do it, or would he do it if he had the power?

    When reflecting on that, consider Amis writing in the same vein about children and with the same clarity – then I assure you you would not be considering his primeval urges. You would be advocating taking his children into care, as you would McEwen’s and one or two others’ besides.

    It was not a throwaway comment, it was considered and testing. His backtracking was worse, it was cowardly.

  69. Rumbold — on 24th June, 2008 at 8:56 pm  

    DavidMWW:

    “So do you believe that I called for children to be beaten and incarcerated?”

    Yes. However, you then immediatly qualified it. When did Martin Amis do that?

  70. DavidMWW — on 24th June, 2008 at 9:09 pm  

    So the problem boils down to an inability to distinguish the semantic difference between describing an urge, and demanding that the urge be satisfied.

    I find that surprising. It’s pretty basic stuff.

    Even if that failure of comprehension is forgivable in the first instance, it becomes astonishing when it persists after repeated clarifications.

  71. Desi Italiana — on 24th June, 2008 at 9:10 pm  

    Cover Drive:

    “The Brits actively pursued racist policies in India during colonial rule and generally didn’t mix with the Indians. When Indians and Pakistanis came here there was no real attempt to integrate them with the rest of society.”

    Come on dude, you’re going to draw an analogy between imperialists and immigrants? Makes no sense whatsoever. It’s like comparing the Mexican immigrants of the US to Anglo imperialists in America. Different dynamics.

  72. Rumbold — on 24th June, 2008 at 9:19 pm  

    If I start going into details about an urge I have, the implication is that I somehow approve of that urge.

  73. Indrak — on 24th June, 2008 at 9:38 pm  

    Shall we restrict this to those that recognize that an urge takes place over an urgent timespan,
    rather than years, so why speculate over an ‘urge’ that describes how people of a cerrtain appearence are to be treated over years? -with circular reasoning at that..

    Unless different rules apply to him for writing ‘Time’s Arrow’; is that why the establihment and its critics fawn over him?
    He is high-level SS material. He acts as though he is superior, and many treat him so.
    He said, I believe, he would never leave his wife/kids as he had his experienced his father do so. Then he did. Square circles are logically impossible.

  74. DavidMWW — on 24th June, 2008 at 9:41 pm  

    @72 Not necessarily, but I suppose we are getting somewhere.

    “Amis implied that he somehow approved of his urge that Muslims be targetted and collectively punished”

    is much closer to being a true statement than

    “Amis called for Muslims be targetted and collectively punished”

  75. digitalcntrl — on 24th June, 2008 at 9:57 pm  

    “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suff­­er­­­ing? Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.”

    Yes the racism and collective punishment in Mr. Amis statements is obvious. However, I detect a strong frustration driving him to these extreme comments. I cringe when I hear comments by many mainstream minority members across Western Europe proclaim the totality of their loyalty and identity to some narrow religious or ethnic grouping at the cost to their adopted country. Would you want someone like that living next to you? Would you trust such a person? Fortunately things are not as bad as that over here in the US, at least not yet.

  76. Cover Drive — on 24th June, 2008 at 10:09 pm  

    I still I don’t follow the analogy about Brits in India and immigrants in the UK.

    What I’m trying to say is that when the British lived in India they did not make an effort assimilate with the local population. After Britain lost its empire (and still suffering from post-colonial guilt) the prevailing view was that those who came to this country should be allowed to live as though they did back in their own countries because we didn’t make an attempt to mix with them. Hence the situation today. Hope that is clearer.

    Kenan Malik WAS a Trotskyite but has long since abandoned his affiliation with the left. This is a statement from his website:

    I have written of how the Salman Rushdie affair helped transform my relationship with the left; the Rushdie affair gave early notice of the abandonment by many sections of the left of their traditional attachment to ideas of Enlightenment rationalism and secular universalism and their growing espousal of multiculturalism, identity politics and notions of cultural authenticity. As a result, much of my political campaigning over the past decade has been in defence of free speech, secularism and scientific
    rationalism.

    He’s also got some interesting views on Islamophobia. He thinks the racism back in 60s and 70s was far worse than anything today.

    Good night! I’m going to bed soon.

  77. soru — on 24th June, 2008 at 10:15 pm  


    You seem to have located Amis’s missing caveat.

    DavidMWW provided specific links, but really it shouldn’t require clarification – the faintest glimmer of common sense or empathy should lead anyone to a non-hate-based reading of his words. A journalist cutting off a quote doesn’t make it reasonable to assume nothing came after.

    Especially a pompous git like Amis.

    If I start going into details about an urge I have, the implication is that I somehow approve of that urge.

    I think that goes against most critical interpretations of, say, Lolita.

    It’s like, you can see a couple of people upthread, probably americans, who have transparently never met a Muslim in their lives, and believe all kinds of weird impossible bullshit about them.

    Is it that some other people here have never met anyone who has read a book before?

  78. douglas clark — on 24th June, 2008 at 10:41 pm  

    Well,

    I might as well be honest about this. In the immediate aftermath of 7/7, I felt a lot more aggressive than Martin Amis lets on here.

    When you are attacked, directly, immediately, you are thrown back onto the old, old concepts of fight or flight. Given that there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, given the nature of the threat, the only option is fight. Which certainly, and perhaps to the terrorists advantage, means that you come out saying the most extreme things. The most visceral things. And, in the immediate aftermath, folk were talking about a civil war between Muslims and Whites. They were talking the language of conflict.

    That is what fear and adrenalin do for you. It is a deadly mix.

    Fortunately, the follow up 22/7 attack was a complete failure.

    Sanity started to prevail.

    But there is little point in denying that, at the moment, at the second, a tribalism took over.

    I have never encountered anyone here that would have deserved the anger I felt that day. But the anger was real. I am not proud of it.

    I have read a lot of what Martin Amis has had to say in the fallout from 9/11 in particular.

    I do not agree with his analysis, the cheap “Muslims say we let our kids drink and have sex, but Muslims let their kids blow themselves up”, kind of stuff, but where I do have a modicum of sympathy with him is in his general analysis that Mohhamed Qutb is a completely backward person. One that appears to have been adopted by Saudia Arabia for internal reasons and one that they now export. One that see’s women as men’s subjects.

    Better brains than mine ought to at least read what Amis had to say here. It at least deserves a reply:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/sep/10/september11.politicsphilosophyandsociety

    Err.. It is quite long.

  79. Sid — on 24th June, 2008 at 11:10 pm  

    DavidMWW provided specific links, but really it shouldn’t require clarification – the faintest glimmer of common sense or empathy should lead anyone to a non-hate-based reading of his words.

    Sorry I don’t know Amis personally and so I have no way of knowing what his characteristic speech inflexions are. I would however, expect a writer to be more fastidious with the use of the language he writes in.

    If you don’t know him either then you are giving him the benefit of the doubt about the way he is putting an ugly point across. You have *empathised* and that’s a subjective decision you’ve made.

    A journalist cutting off a quote doesn’t make it reasonable to assume nothing came after.

    So there was a caveat? What was cut out from the original interview from which the quote was taken?

  80. douglas clark — on 24th June, 2008 at 11:42 pm  

    Sid,

    Have you read the link I gave above? Read it and then tell me how wrong he is. There are three parts to it, and some of it is probably nonsense, but read the whole. Overall, I think he has at least a point worth discussing….

  81. soru — on 25th June, 2008 at 12:25 am  

    I would however, expect a writer to be more fastidious with the use of the language he writes in.

    True, but he didn’t _write_ those words. A journalist quoted him as having _spoken_ them, shortly after 9/11.

    The only people I expect to be able to play the game of speaking without ever providing an unintended sound-bite are professional spokespeople and politicians, and even there you going to get a lot of ‘no comments’ and ‘you can’t expect me to answer that question’.

    It was later, when Amis wrote his ‘horrorism’ essay criticising (ok, attacking) Islamism, that Eagleton brought the quote into the public sphere, and in a way that made it seem like it was a part of the considered essay.

    With any potential conflict, you have to accept there are going to be people who see promoting and provoking that conflict as in their interests, and so attempt to stoke it by distorting and exaggerating what the ‘other side’ is saying. You see it all the time with list of quotations from Israeli or Arab politicians intended to demonstrate just what bloodthirsty bloodthirsty racist monsters the other side are, how compromise with such monsters will never be possible, and so forth.

    Such quotes are often pure fabrications, almost always distortions, and always propaganda.

  82. Indrak — on 25th June, 2008 at 12:43 am  

    #80:
    I know it’s not addressed to me; I’d already read about this b4, I think Eagleton covered it well enough..
    Yet when he asserts, as do many others, that the west was neutral on islam till some Einstuerzende Bauten – well no matter how clever he’s believed to be, ‘they’ are not that stupid.

    As for what he says about 4ernyshievkii [he probably calculated it's not worth insinuating he died so as to be reincarnated as Hitler; either that or it was after Sid's birthday],
    and Lenin: that places him objectively at a ‘proximate’ level
    – it’s no surprise, he is a tool of reaction.

  83. Indrak — on 25th June, 2008 at 1:36 am  

    #82:
    ok Eagleton did not cover it so well, he mistakenly sourced the passage at stake to the essay,

    but for those who are interested, the following does much better – I came across it in this form just now, but hails from my preferred source:

    http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/12/386963.html

  84. halima — on 25th June, 2008 at 5:15 am  

    “What I’m trying to say is that when the British lived in India they did not make an effort assimilate with the local population. After Britain lost its empire (and still suffering from post-colonial guilt) the prevailing view was that those who came to this country should be allowed to live as though they did back in their own countries because we didn’t make an attempt to mix with them. Hence the situation today. Hope that is clearer.”

    Oh, I now get it. Much clearer. You are absolutely right.

  85. Desi Italiana — on 25th June, 2008 at 7:35 am  

    Cover Drive:

    “What I’m trying to say is that when the British lived in India they did not make an effort assimilate with the local population. After Britain lost its empire (and still suffering from post-colonial guilt) the prevailing view was that those who came to this country should be allowed to live as though they did back in their own countries because we didn’t make an attempt to mix with them. Hence the situation today. Hope that is clearer.”

    No, your analogy is not clear. What’s clear is that you’re basically paint-brushing a bunch of people (immigrants) and making an unfounded claim that they don’t want to ‘assimilate’ into British ‘society’. How in the world can you make such a generalization? You know all the immigrants in the UK?

    “Likewise, immigrants in this country have been allowed to live as they would have done in rural India or Pakistan. There are many people who’ve been living here for more than thirty years who can’t even speak English.”

    Sorry to say this, but what a classist and frankly, racist, assertion. Too bad for you that these immigrants didn’t get to go to private English-language schools in South Asia before heading over to England, no?

    And you’ve generalized people on the left as well. There are several shades of left, just as there are on the right, but you’ve lumped them and assigned them personality characteristics as you’ve done with immigrants.

  86. Cover Drive — on 25th June, 2008 at 10:00 am  

    No, your analogy is not clear. What’s clear is that you’re basically paint-brushing a bunch of people (immigrants) and making an unfounded claim that they don’t want to ‘assimilate’ into British ’society’. How in the world can you make such a generalization? You know all the immigrants in the UK?

    Please read carefully what I have written. I am not saying all immigrants don’t want to assimilate, although there are some that clearly don’t even after 30 years of living here. What I am saying quite simply is that there was no strategy to impress upon immigrants to assimilate into British life. Things have changed somewhat in recent years, but back in the 60s and 70s there was no need to for immigrants to learn English or understand anything about British life. Citizenship tests have only been introduced in the last few years but I believe in the US they’ve been going for some time.

    Have you actually been to this country? I come across people who’ve been living here for decades and still can’t speak a word of English. Does that show any willingness to assimilate? I am not trying to paintbrush all immigrants. My point is mainly about censorship and how the left has taken it upon itself to jump to the defence of ALL Muslims whenever someone criticises them or their religion, so any criticism of Islam can be dismissed as Islamophobic. This actually works against those struggling to defend basic rights even within the Muslim community. Salman Rushdie, as we all know, had a fatwa hanging over his head for a decade, and some Muslim women who suffer oppression are condemned as Islamophobic, even by some ‘anti-racist’ organisations.

  87. halima — on 25th June, 2008 at 11:05 am  

    ‘Have you actually been to this country?’

    Funny that, I was wondering that about you .. and then you indicated you do live ‘here’ which means the UK i presume.

    Most people on this blog were born in the UK.

    And are the sons and daughters of immigrants.

    They might know something about immigrants.

    There are lots of good courses these days in the UK where you can learn about why people in poverty face difficulty learning skills.

    What are your views about white Brits and integration? Do they need to learn anything more about the changing face of Britain? Do they need to learn more about citizenship? Do they need to improve their literacy skills? Do they show any willingness to assimilate with other non-white populations?

  88. Cover Drive — on 25th June, 2008 at 12:44 pm  

    halima,

    I believe we’ve come a long way from the race riots of the 70s and early 80s but obviously racism still exists. Despite 9/11 and 7/7 I think there hasn’t been a major increase in the number of attacks on Muslims, although some community leaders like to inflate the threat for their own ends. We need to keep things in perspective. Race crimes do make the headlines unlike in the past.

    I believe in the universality of races. The less differences we see between each other in terms of religion, race and creed the better. The less identity politics, the better.

  89. Desi Italiana — on 25th June, 2008 at 8:41 pm  

    Cover Drive;

    “Have you actually been to this country? I come across people who’ve been living here for decades and still can’t speak a word of English. Does that show any willingness to assimilate?”

    I have been to England, yes. And what you say I hear all the damn time about Mexicans in California, where I am from.

    Let me break it down for you: people who come to another country at a certain age, did not go to school where English was taught (and these are mostly private, costly schools in the Subcontinent), and lack the financial means and time resources (especially when they are working many hours to make ends meet) to take English classes might be in a country for years without speaking the local language. Don’t get me wrong: I think for independence and self-defense, representation, etc, people should try to learn the local language. But let’s get one thing straight: there have been two types of migrants, and those are the global elites who can easily move between worlds because their privilege has both equipped them to and allows them to, and then those who leave their country to find other opportunities.

    But this tripe about immigrants not learning English is frankly nauseating. I’ve met tons of Western immigrants who live in non-Western countries for years, and few of them try to speak the local language, let alone know how to. In fact, they live in their own ‘expat’ bubble because they can, because again, their first world status and privilege allows them to. I saw this in Italy, I know of people living in Beijing who don’t think it’s a problem not knowing the local language, etc. So I don’t want to hear this crap at how immigrants live in a country for years and don’t speak the local language. What you mean to say is Desi immigrants, not immigrants the world over.

    “I believe in the universality of races. The less differences we see between each other in terms of religion, race and creed the better. The less identity politics, the better.”

    Right. In your comments, YOU keep delineating presumed differences between Muslims and non-Muslims, immigrants and not, and clearly, you have identity politics, or else you wouldn’t have written all those comments about folks who you think do not share the same identity as you.

  90. Refresh — on 25th June, 2008 at 9:05 pm  

    Agree completely Desi.

    Its a class thing.

  91. Cover Drive — on 25th June, 2008 at 10:52 pm  

    I’ve met tons of Western immigrants who live in non-Western countries for years, and few of them try to speak the local language, let alone know how to.

    Yes, but they don’t blow themselves up on a tube train and take the lives of other innocent people with them. 7/7 was a major shock to everyone here because we realised that there were people born and bred in this country who were prepared to commit acts of terrorism in this country. For a long time before that, unknown to the vast majority of the population, British jihadis supported terrorism in other countries but 7/7 marked a major turning point. Up to that point there was little discussion about problems with immigrants integrating in society. Suddenly we realised things weren’t as rosy as we thought. What could cause seemingingly normal young men to commit murder on a mass scale? How did they become indoctrinated? What motivated them? However uncomfortable it is, they were the products of this society and their expereinces in this country. That is the sad truth.

    I agree with Kenan Malik that multi-culturalism has strengthened the conservative forces within communities. As I have said before, both the racists and the (far) left are wrong because both carve people up along racial lines, the latter inadvertently. Maybe this criticism sounds close to xenophobia to you but I am not trying to be racist. The arguments Malik presents in his book are quite balanced and I recommend you read the book. He actually thinks race is not a biological concept but a social one.

  92. Desi Italiana — on 25th June, 2008 at 11:15 pm  

    Cover Drive,

    Why don’t you get your shit straight. The bombers were not immigrants, they were British born. So why are you using 7/11 as something immigrants have done?

    Secondly, if the Blackwater killings aren’t Westerners killing people in Iraq, then I don’t know what they are.

    Thirdly, you obviously have not kept up to date with atrocities committed by Westerners where they either 1) enjoy impunity or 2) know that they can get away with it because of weak state and police infrastructure.

    “As I have said before, both the racists and the (far) left are wrong because both carve people up along racial lines, the latter inadvertently.”

    So I take it that you are a part of the (far) left.

    Just keep chuup chaap, already.

  93. douglas clark — on 25th June, 2008 at 11:57 pm  

    Desi,

    if the Blackwater killings aren’t Westerners killing people in Iraq, then I don’t know what they are.

    I expect Soru to be on my tail any moment now, but realistic estimates of the death toll in Iraq exceed the one million mark. Blackwater are small beer in that total. The deaths are either: directly by US and UK forces, whether military or paramilitary, or indirectly through their failure to impose a rule of law as required by convention. In either event the responsibility for these deaths lies exclusively at the hands of the invading forces.

    The US exceptionalism to international prosecution is a complete disgrace predicated on power alone.

  94. Refresh — on 26th June, 2008 at 12:46 am  

    Here is an excellent piece on McEwen and his deeply insular world:

    Adrian Hamilton: McEwan’s attack on Islam reveals only his ignorance

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/adrian-hamilton/adrian-hamilton-mcewans-attack-on-islam-reveals-only-his-ignorance-854272.html

    Covers all the bases, women, homosexuality, hypocrisy, well pretty much all that is being discussed here. And the non-trivial interference Desi Italiana alludes to, which we don’t seem to want to acknowledge.

  95. Refresh — on 26th June, 2008 at 1:22 am  

    And yet another from someone who is always worth reading:

    Johann Hari: Our infantile search for heroic leaders

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-our-infantile-search-for-heroic-leaders-854278.html

    Douglas, he makes an interesting point about wishful Ghandian philosophy.

  96. soru — on 26th June, 2008 at 1:27 am  

    refresh: I was hoping for some considered criticism, because there is certainly a lot to criticise about Amis’s essay without pretending it is something it is not.
    But that article seemed exceptionally weak – just some facile positioning, then the line ‘islamism, and so by extension islam’, then a bunch of stuff that would perhaps follow from that, if the bit in quotes was accepted as true.

    In 2008, don’t you look a bit of an idiot if you write an article in a quality newspaper, with ‘ignorance’ in the title, when you literally do not know what the word ‘islamism’ means, what people are pointing at when they say the word?

    Clue: it doesn’t have the same relation to the Islamic religion as the word Catholicism does to the Catholic one. It’s more like, in an Irish context, Republicanism.

    The rest of the article, on homosexuality, female circumcision, etc, is pretty much like defending Sinn Fein because, who knows, maybe contraception is actually a bad thing: who are we to say whether or not it should be outlawed?

    Which is not only a bunch of racist patronisation, it ignore the fact that Sinn Fein are, if anything, on the ‘liberal’ side of the debate in Ireland on abortion, homosexuality, and so on.

    Just like most Islamists.

  97. Refresh — on 26th June, 2008 at 1:49 am  

    Soru, I liked it.

    The bit in quotes isn’t all the article says. Amis and McEwen et al would have been in a much stronger position if they had actually pointed out the ‘absurdity’ of fundamentalism in all its forms. But they do not. They are very specific and agressive to one in particular – leaving for example McEwen to only say when referred to similarities to christian fundamentalists that they were ‘absurd’.

    Nothing else? Given ‘they’ have far more political power within the only superpower than their counterparts could ever hope for in the muslim world.

    Earlier you contested the use of the term ‘racist’ in relation to our literary heroes. Here was an article which specifically says that should not be the way to address these characters. They deserve a more considered response. And yet you say that it was not considered enough.

    How could it be more considered?

  98. Cover Drive — on 26th June, 2008 at 6:12 am  

    Why don’t you get your shit straight. The bombers were not immigrants, they were British born. So why are you using 7/11 as something immigrants have done?

    Are you over-sensitive to the word ‘immigrants’ or something? OK, they were British, which is even more scary.

    As for the Iraq War, I was never a supporter of it from the outset. But you seem oblivious of the role of Al Qaeda and insurgents from neighbouring countries in the killings. Any way, I don’t want to get into a discussion about that because I was never in favour of the war.

  99. Desi Italiana — on 26th June, 2008 at 7:43 am  

    Douglas:

    “Blackwater are small beer in that total. The deaths are either: directly by US and UK forces, whether military or paramilitary, or indirectly through their failure to impose a rule of law as required by convention. In either event the responsibility for these deaths lies exclusively at the hands of the invading forces.”

    Yeah, so this refutes the point that Westerners do not go to other countries and blow people up. Why need trains and wimpy, retail terrorism when you’ve got the best weapons in the world to wreak wholesale havoc?

    Refresh:

    “Douglas, he makes an interesting point about wishful Ghandian philosophy.”

    GANDHI :)

    Cover Drive:

    “As for the Iraq War, I was never a supporter of it from the outset.”

    In addition to your dividing people based on race and religion like your (far) leftist counterparts, my suspicions are even more confirmed that you are a part of the left now that you state you were anti-war as well.

    Damn those leftists!

  100. cjcjc — on 26th June, 2008 at 9:07 am  

    Sinn Fein are, if anything, on the ‘liberal’ side of the debate in Ireland on abortion, homosexuality, and so on.

    Just like most Islamists.

    Indeed

  101. Cover Drive — on 26th June, 2008 at 9:13 am  

    Desi,

    And my suspicions are confirmed you are siding with the jihadis. Good for you.

  102. halima — on 26th June, 2008 at 10:08 am  

    “Here is an excellent piece on McEwen and his deeply insular world”

    I will read this. See I regularly read McEwan, mostly because he writes about disturbed minds and crosses the line with lots of stuff on identity (women and men) and sexuality… writers that write with that power of imagination .. have to be in their own worlds.

    Best thing with artists is to ignore their politics (if you disgaree with them) as I am sure lots of people did with Morrissey…

  103. Refresh — on 26th June, 2008 at 10:45 am  

    ‘Best thing with artists is to ignore their politics (if you disgaree with them) as I am sure lots of people did with Morrissey…’

    On the whole I think people relate to artists if they ‘speak’ to them and maybe for them. As a philistine I tend not to give substance to artists unless they speak my language.

    With the exception of that rabid right-winger Charlton Heston because of his Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, Omega Man and Planet of the Apes.

  104. soru — on 26th June, 2008 at 11:01 am  

    How could it be more considered?

    I don’t so much deal in considered, polite, respectful and so on as right and wrong, accurate or inaccurate.

    Adrian Hamilton might well be a very nice person, who is kind to his wife and kids, never rude to taxi drivers, and so forth. Whereas by all accounts Amis is a shit, and his recent novels are tedious.

    As I don’t know either guy, that’s just not of any particular interest to me. The question is, are their views on the subject factually accurate, well organised, persuasive and free of major logical and category errors?

    Or are they a bunch vague bullshit that demonstrates Hamilton doesn’t know his arse from his elbow, doesn’t even _understand_ the argument Amis is making, let alone finds himself in a position to argue intelligently against it.

    (Hari’s article is much better, though discussing it more would be a digression too far).

    For example, you say:
    Amis and McEwen et al would have been in a much stronger position if they had actually pointed out the ‘absurdity’ of fundamentalism in all its forms. But they do not. They are very specific and agressive to one in particular – leaving for example McEwen to only say when referred to similarities to christian fundamentalists that they were ‘absurd’.

    Wheras what McEwan actually said was:

    I find them equally absurd.

    Which is precisely what you wanted him to say – it is not the comparison that is absurd, but both sets of fundamentalists.

    Anyway, have to go now: I heard somone somewhere else on the internet is wrong.

  105. Refresh — on 26th June, 2008 at 1:26 pm  

    ‘Anyway, have to go now: I heard somone somewhere else on the internet is wrong.’

    You may be chasing your tail. ;)

  106. Indrak — on 26th June, 2008 at 2:26 pm  

    re some posts back, generally:
    Do any here actually find contentious that most post-war immigration resulted from the need for labour here?
    -and that most who came intended to return?
    -but oil was less easy to abuse then, and critical mass made life more bearable fro them here so families began to dwell.

    Instead of requiring them to assimilate, the ‘hosts’ could have been educated to welcome them, or at least desist from shitting on them..something some, here and even mor eelsewhere, seem to be wholly blind to yet all too cogniscant of its reaction.
    Scandinavia was deemed peripheral + allowed to go its own way;
    it’s worth speculating about Britain not trying to maintain world power status in having the atomic bomb.

    More thread-specific, if people cannot stretch to my suggested link in post #83,
    then re #95, Hari, whom unlike some here, I have no personal contact with:
    he seems to be growing up up quite fast, it’s good to be able to learn on-th-job. Whether he continues and makes the qualitative leap is yet unclear.

  107. Desi Italiana — on 27th June, 2008 at 6:54 am  

    Cover Drive:

    “And my suspicions are confirmed you are siding with the jihadis”.

    Come and get me, then!

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