'I Despise Islamism': Ian McEwan Faces Backlash over Press Interview
Popham, Peter, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
He defends fellow writer Martin Amis against racist charge and condemns religious hardliners
The novelist Ian McEwan has launched an astonishingly strong attack on Islamism, saying that he "despises" it and accusing it of "wanting to create a society that I detest". His words, in an interview with an Italian newspaper, could, in today's febrile legalistic climate, lay him open to being investigated for a "hate crime".
In an interview with Guido Santevecchi, a London correspondent for Corriere della Sera, the Booker-winning novelist said he rarely grants interviews on controversial issues "because I have to be careful to protect my privacy". But he said that he was glad to leap to the defence of his old friend Martin Amis when the latter's attacks on Muslims brought down charges of racism on his head. He made an exception of the Islamic issue out of friendship to Amis, and because he shares the latter's strong opinions.
"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. …