It is ironic that many people use “Islamism” as a figleaf term to avoid speaking about Islam itself; they pretend that the political and imperialistic and supremacist elements of Islam are not deeply rooted within it, but are merely “Islamist” inventions that can with relative ease be eradicated and are already rejected by the Islamic mainstream. Yet here, The Independent assumes that to speak about Islamism is to speak about Islam, and suggests that British authorities might think the same thing.
Free Speech Death Watch Update: “‘I despise Islamism’: Ian McEwan faces backlash over press interview,” by Peter Popham and Thais Portilho-Shrimpton in The Independent, June 22 (thanks to all who sent this in):
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.”
But his words in the Corriere interview are far stronger, although they do fall short of the invective deployed by Martin Amis. He has said “the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order”, and told The Independent’s columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a Muslim, in an open letter: “Islamism, in most of its manifestations, not only wants to kill me — it wants to kill you.”
McEwan’s interviewer pointed out that there exist equally hard-line schools of thought within Christianity, for example in the United States. “I find them equally absurd,” McEwan replied. “I don’t like these medieval visions of the world according to which God is coming to save the faithful and to damn the others. But those American Christians don’t want to kill anyone in my city, that’s the difference.”
What absurdity. Where are these hard-line Christians who want to kill people? What doctrines of Christianity do they invoke?
But in any case, if McEwan faces charges, it will be because of what he said about “Islamism,” not about Christianity.