British Novelist Tells Italy's Corriere Della Sera He "Despises Islamism"

By Jones, Lucy | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September/October 2008 | Go to article overview

British Novelist Tells Italy's Corriere Della Sera He "Despises Islamism"


Jones, Lucy, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


In June, the British Booker Prize-winning novelist Ian McEwan made a strong attack on Islamism, saying he "despises" it and accused it of "wanting to create a society that I detest."

In an interview published in the June 21 edition of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, McEwan leapt to the defense of fellow British writer Martin Amis, after the latter's attack on Muslims brought down charges of racism on his head.

"A dear friend had been called a racist," McEwan 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 criticizes it is racist.

"I myself despise Islamism," he continued, "because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance toward homosexuality and so on-we know it well."

McEwan told Corriere della Sera that he finds hard-line schools of thought within Christianity "equally absurd." "But those American Christians don't want to kill anyone in my city, that's the difference," he said.

Writing in Britain's Independent of June 26, columnist Adrian Hamilton said it was not the "triteness" of the views of McEwan and "the rest of the clash-of-civilizations literary brigade" that he found "objectionable," but "the way that they present them as if they were somehow brave and outspoken, a courageous gesture against the norms of political correctness.

"In reality," Hamilton argued, "they are simply the mirror image of the views propagated by the worst of the mullahs, and playing directly into their hands.

"There is nothing more that the 'preachers of hate,' as they are called, could wish for than for Western celebrities to come out with vituperative condemnation of their faith, in cartoons, on the screens, across the airwaves or in the press," Hamilton continued. "It feeds their strongest assertion that Islam is under attack from a secular West that rejects every tenet not just of their belief but of their way of life."

Muslims Feel Like the "Jews of Europe"

Britain's first Muslim minister attacked the growing culture of hostility toward Muslims in the U.K., saying many felt targeted like "the Jews of Europe," Britain's Independent reported on July 4.

Shahid Malik, whom Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed as a minister in the Department of International Development last summer, said it has become legitimate to target Muslims in the media and society at large in a way that would be unacceptable for any other minority.

Malik made clear that he was not equating the situation with the Holocaust, The Independent said, but instead warned that many British Muslims now felt like "aliens in their own country."

A "Dispatches" documentary on Britain's Channel 4 television outlet, shown on the third anniversary of the July 7 London bombings, put forward the view that negative attitudes toward Muslims have become legitimized by think-tanks and newspaper commentators, who use language that is now being parroted by the far right.

According to an ICM poll taken in conjunction with the documentary, 51 percent of Britons blame Islam to some degree for the 2005 attacks, while more than a quarter of Muslims now believe Islamic values are not compatible with British values. While 90 percent of Muslims said they felt attached to Britain, 8 of 10 said they felt there was more religious prejudice against their faith since the July bombings.

Top Judge Says Shariah Could Be Used in Britain

Controversy over shariah law was reignited by the Lord Chief Justice when he argued on July 3 that the Islamic legal code could be used to resolve disputes between Muslims in the U.K.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the most senior judge in England and Wales, ruled out the possibility of shariah courts sitting in Britain or handing down penalties. …

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