Oct 182007

On Channel 4 News last night, Martin Amis stuck to the same strategy he has adopted since the eruption of the row a week ago over his statements on Muslims. The comments in question, he repeated, were not made in writing – as literary critic Terry Eagleton had suggested – but “conversationally” in a press interview. He has since written more than 25,000 words all of which, he maintained, he stands by.

But this is as bad an excuse as he could have concocted. For the implication is that what may be unacceptable when scribbled on paper becomes perfectly acceptable and entirely excusable when uttered verbally.

If anything, however, spontaneous dialogue is more capable of revealing one’s inner thoughts and more expressive of one’s real positions than written texts. Its directness leaves less room for language games, for the ability to manipulate words, hide behind rhetorical devices, and disguise meanings. Amis’s deep-held views are much more likely to be found in the unguarded slips of his tongue than in the carefully rehearsed twists of his pen.

The trouble for Amis is that he is being confronted with his own words; words so explicit and flagrantly clear that their meaning is graspable even by the young and the unlettered. And you do not really need Terry Eagleton’s powers of interpretation and literary criticism to see that they ooze hatred and bigotry. So shockingly racist and Islamophobic are they that even their author has not been able to stand by them, instead seeking refuge in complaints about his mood, psychological state and the context within which the statements were uttered.

But are we to subject every statement of his to psychological analysis and ask if it was made in a state of calm or agitation, happiness or depression? And how can we be sure that his corrections were not made in a similar state of distress and tension? Are we dealing with a responsible adult, or with a minor who cannot be taken seriously?

Aware of the indefensibility of his exposed positions, Amis has sought to depict the matter as a tiff in a literary saloon or a departmental row with a “self-righteous” fellow academic. Much is made of Terry Eagleton’s Marxism here, as though this were a dispute over some ideological doctrine, or philosophical tenet. Reading the many paragraphs Amis devotes to attacking his opponent’s character gives the impression that had they been quoted by one other than the “marooned” Eagleton, the passages at the centre of the controversy would have raised no eyebrows and have been deemed perfectly respectable.

Amis’s attempt to distance himself from his utterances might have stood a better chance of being taken seriously if these had been substantially different from what he had opined on the subject of Islam and Muslims before and after the infamous interview. Although it is “Islamic radicalism” he claims to loathe and condemn, he almost always slips into reviling Muslims, their faith and their culture. He continuously vacillates between “Islam” and “extremism”, “al-Qaida” and “Muslims”, eventually blurring any distinctions between the terms. A few seconds before he began his alleged “thought experiment” on how Muslims ought to be handled, he says:

” … the only thing the Islamists like about modernity is modern weapons … They’re also gaining on us demographically at a huge rate. A quarter of humanity now and by 2025 they’ll be a third. Italy’s down to 1.1 child per woman. We’re just going to be outnumbered … ”

Although the diatribe starts against “Islamists”, soon the mask drops, and Amis turns his fire on Muslims. Implicitly or explicitly the terms co-refer in usage, and context. “Radical”, “extremist”, “Islamist”, “savage”, and all that is dark and frightening becomes a euphemism for “Islam” and “Muslim”.

What else would we expect of Amis when he draws his references from Paul Berman and VS Naipaul? Sam Harris, whom he frequently quotes in his Age of Horrorism, says:

“It is time we recognised – and obliged the Muslim world to recognise – that ‘Muslim extremism’ is not extreme among Muslims. Mainstream Islam itself represents an extremist rejection of intellectual honesty … The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no centre.”

Beneath the verbiage, Amis’s views are no different from those of his neoconservative mentors. What they say openly, he seeks to disguise behind the thin veil of “isms”. His writings, like theirs, drip with cultural essentialism, a conviction in the west’s superiority over other cultures, and zealous belief in the white man’s burden. The spirit that permeates them is one of sharp dualism of “us and them”, “west” and “east”, “modernity” and “Islam”. All the pages carry are rows of war trenches locked in endless confrontation, estranged worlds where the only meeting point is the battle field.

Even as he seeks to turn cultures and nations into barbed wire blocks, Amis still bids us see him as a prophet of dialogue. He wants to build bridges with Muslims, he tells us. Well, as the brown-skinned Middle Eastern Arabs he wants strip-searched and deported say: “War begins with words,” and Amis’s words have nothing to do with peace and everything to do with war. He demolishes bridges then pontificates about building them, beats the drums of war in the morning then sings peace hymns when night falls.

In his response to Eagleton, he writes that he wishes to engage with “moderate Muslims”. I am at a loss as to where he would find these moderates when he advocates the deportation of Muslims en masse, of “those who look like they’re from the Middle East, or from Pakistan”. Unless these moderates are meant to be blond and blue eyed – features in short supply among the mostly dark-skinned Muslims.

Al-Qaida has many who subscribe to its logic in the west and Martin Amis is one of them. Amis says that: “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” Bin Laden said that American and British taxpayers will have to pay the price until Bush and Blair change their policies in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. Both believe in collective punishment, in holding the innocent accountable for the sins of the guilty.

When asked by Jon Snow whether he stood by his comments on the hounding of the entire Muslim community, he replied that the policy would be “counterproductive”. Not morally reprehensible, or grossly unfair, just counterproductive …

What a terrible inferno our world would be if we left it to these missionaries of clashes of civilisations and collective punishment, a monstrous pit of prejudice, hatred, discrimination, and ever-raging wars in the name of a God of war or a God of freedom.


First Published in The Guardian, Thursday 18 October 2007

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/soumayag/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-comment-query.php on line 399

  50 Responses to “War begins with words”

  1. Very good blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a
    little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free
    platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices
    out there that I’m completely confused .. Any tips?
    Bless you!

  2. Congratulazioni, hai appena visitato una splendida idea

  3. It removes distress and the pain experienced by all individuals
    who have to walk around then, and using a device on their
    experience after the eruption, using a large red-dot left behind
    for several to find out.

    Feel free to visit my web site; acne cream benzoyl peroxide prescription

  4. Some lenders stipulate that their company will be responsible
    for releasing the checks representing the amount to be
    paid to the home improvement supplies company
    or to the contractor. You can have the home of your dreams and it’s not as hard as you think.
    The best way to prevent cracking the stucco on the outside is pre-drilling.

    my web page … شركات نقل اثاث

  5. whoah this blog is magnificent i really like reading your posts.

    Stay up the good work! You realize, lots of individuals are searching round for
    this info, you could aid them greatly.

    Feel free to surf to my homepage – gemmes clash of clans

  6. It’s impressive that you are getting thoughts from this article as well as from our dialogue made at
    this time.

  7. Put up your walls, barracks, town hall, gold munes and
    mana factories. The term ‘adjective phrase’ requires further explanation. Because each pperson you meet will have some resemblance.

  8. That is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very accurate information… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read post!

  9. After looking at a few of the blog articles on your web site,
    I really like your way of writing a blog. I bookmarked it to my bookmark site
    list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my web site too and tell me what you think.

  10. Hello everyone, anyone who wants to remove their dark position please look at the physician.

    Here is my web-site acne cream cvs – Margarette,

  11. Tech gets an remarkable amount of repetitions in practice and most importantly,
    it doesn’t solid waste authority horry county; Rolland, reps practicing issues they don’t do in a game.

  12. Every single biological remedy starts with the simple understanding
    that the digestion approach by all microbes need a food source for the solid waste management companies digestion, bioaugmentation, or bioremediation procedure to thrive.

  13. The normal acne therapy merchandise is the greatest process as it usually matches
    all types of skin.

    my web blog – best face wash for acne (Wiley)

  14. Find out about the septic technique components and how a septic tank operates before you attempt to
    come up with a septic remedy.

    Here is my weblog; solid waste disposal act of 1976

  15. Improper garbage disposal isn’t just an eyesore it poses a severe threat to nature.

    my web site – septic tank leach field problems (Sherry)

  16. Usually, the soil over the prime of a septic system disposal field is quite permeable, specifically soon soon after the disposal field is installed.

    my site – solid waste authority phone number (Lela)

  17. An additional question that one particular of my colleagues
    asked me was, What are you going to do with the waste on the roads?” Here is where job possibilities come in. Anyone can become
    a expert pooper-scooper.

    Here is my weblog: fix leach field problems

  18. If your body’s detoxification tools are not up to snuff, waste will construct up.
    More than time, the harm is comparable to what happens when trash collectors go on strike and don’t choose up the garbage off the streets.

    My blog; effluent pump (Edward)

  19. That eliminates considerably of the waste sorting that can make composting impractical for a larger meals establishment.

    Feel free to surf to my site leach field stone size (Larry)

  20. Wow that waas odd. I just wrote ann very long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr…
    wsll I’m noot writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted
    to say superb blog!

  21. Howdy! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your
    site mobile friendly? My blog looks weird when browsing
    from my iphone. I’m trying to find a template or
    plugin that might be able to fix this issue. If you have any recommendations, please share.
    With thanks!

  22. Thanks for the good writeup. It if truth be told was a leisure account it.
    Glance complicated to far added agreeable from you!
    By the way, how can we keep up a correspondence?

  23. Disposal strategies had been quite crude, involving open pits positioned just outside the city walls.

    Feel free to visit my page: effluent filter

  24. Residents ought to also feel free of charge to call the Saint
    Lucia Solid Waste Management Authority at 453-2208 or 450-7070.

    Also visit my weblog – effluent stream chemical engineering (Amee)

  25. In my most recent publication, (2) I documented the social influence of India’s recent solid waste authority
    phone number (Phillis) crisis on its citizens.

  26. Septic tank or leach field pipe (Florrie) construction mistakes: Improper original building by bad web site selection , especially on rocky, poorly-drained web sites (pipes settle,
    for instance) which includes improper trench grading & routing or extending piping
    over variations in trench grading with no appropriate bedding
    (causing pipe settlement).

  27. This design is spectacular! You certainly know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved
    to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job.

    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented
    it. Too cool!

  28. Why visitors still use to read news papers whdn in this technological world all is
    available on web?

    Visit my webpage; شركات نقل اثاث بجدة

  29. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to
    a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  30. The canvas sneakers look casual in an understated elegant way. The varsity red colored suede on the upper will turn heads. They coordinate their work with the fashion merchandisers and store managers who are assigned in different store outlets and locations by overseeing the visual merchandising initiatives of each unit.

  31. Secondary information will be collected from the already current documents about solid waste disposal facility management at the
    Town Council.

  32. We can sell unwanted newspapers, glass bottles, old electronic items to the raddiwallas and
    kabadiwallas (solid waste association of north america (Rich) traders)
    – because there is a worth in them.

  33. Hello are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you require any html coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!|

  34. Outdoors solid waste disposal act of 1976
    the carrier-distinct applications, LG is also putting a heavy emphasis on its
    Q-branded services.

  35. The foundations oof the sport are simple, which is the most important reason why binary options robot results choices are so fashionable
    among each novice and professional merchants worldwide.

  36. Your septic method and drainfield is the excellent place for
    them to uncover the water they are right after.

    Also visit my blog post :: solid waste disposal act summary

  37. Furthermore this is great within women tennis shoes http://www.aliexpress.com/store/group/Hiking-Shoes/1950023_506538526.html. Just where people if I’m going in the backyard present in extreme temperatures.

  38. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was
    a amusement account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable
    from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

    Here is my webpage: calgary condominium (Jetta)

  39. My webpage: garage door repair diy video, Robby,

  40. This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to understand this topic.
    You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not
    that I actually would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a subject which has been discussed for years.
    Wonderful stuff, just great!

    my webpage; victoria park condos Calgary

  41. In purchase to get credits, download any app from the list
    and operate it for a bare minimum of 30 seconds.

    my web blog … clash of clans hack tool, http://Clashofclanshack.Solarimage.net,

  42. Hello everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at
    this web site, and piece of writing is in fact fruitful for me, keep up posting such articles or

    Take a look at my web site – foundation repair (Chassidy)

  43. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I
    hope you write again very soon!

    Feel free to visit my web page – foundation repair

  44. Every weekend i used to pay a visit this web page, because i wish for enjoyment, since this
    this web site conations genuinely pleasant funny data too.

    Feel free to surf to my blog – calgary central condos

  45. I don’t even understand how I ended up here, but I thought this post was once great.
    I don’t realize who you are but definitely you’re going
    to a well-known blogger if you aren’t already.

    Feel free to surf to my web blog http://www.propertyguru.com.sg/listing/19762555/for-sale-the-visionaire

  46. Hey I know this іs off topic Ƅut І waѕ wondering іf ʏοu
    ҝnew ߋff any wudgets Ι
    ϲould аdd tߋ mү blog tҺаt automatically tweet my newᥱѕt twitter updates.
    Ι’ᴠе Ьеen looking fօr a plug-іn ⅼike tһіѕ fⲟr ԛuite some time аnd ԝaѕ hoping mayhbe ʏou would ɦave ѕome experience with something like tҺіѕ.
    Ꮲlease lᥱt mme қnoա if yߋu гսn into ɑnything.
    Ι truly enjoy reading yߋur blog and І
    ⅼⲟօk forward tօ ʏօur neww updates.

    my blpog … osca commercial design (Jared)

  47. Very good article. I certainly love this site. Keep writing!|

  48. Your style is unique compared to other people I have
    read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you
    have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark this

  49. A7qkFB I really liked your post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

  50. These are truly wonderful ideas in concerning blogging.

    You have touched some nice factors here. Any way keep up wrinting.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.