This story is one to watch, given the past reactions and incidents resulting from publications like Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, the Danish Muhammad cartoons, The Jewel of Medina (dreadful, but it wasn’t literary critics who firebombed the publishing house), and others. “Sebastian Faulks risks Muslim anger after calling Koran the ‘rantings of a schizophrenic’,” by Lucy Cockcroft for the Telegraph, August 23:
He said the Islamic holy scripture was a “one-dimensional book” that has little literary value, and added that when compared with the Bible its message seemed “barren”.
Faulks, who is known for his meticulous research, has recently read a translation of the Koran to help him write his latest novel, A Week in December, to be published in September.
Unlike his previous historical works, such as Birdsong and Charlotte Gray, his new offering is set in contemporary London.
The cast of characters include the wife of Britain’s youngest MP, a female Tube driver, a hedge fund manager and a Glasgow-born Islamic terrorist recruit named Hassan al Rashid.
It was during research for al Rashid that he began delving into the Koran, which Muslims believe to be divine guidance passed to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel.
In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Faulks said: “It’s a depressing book. It really is. It’s just the rantings of a schizophrenic. It’s very one-dimensional, and people talk about the beauty of the Arabic and so on, but the English translation I read was, from a literary point of view, very disappointing.” […]
“With the Koran there are no stories. And it has no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life.”
And in a move that is likely to anger many Muslims, he calls into question the worth of Muhammad.
“Jesus, unlike Muhammad, had interesting things to say. He proposed a revolutionary way of looking at the world: love you neighbour, love your enemy, be kind to people, the meek shall inherit the Earth. Muhammad had nothing to say to the world other than, ‘If you don’t believe in God you will burn forever.'”
Ajmal Masroor, an imam and spokesman for the Islamic Society for Britain, says he does not recognise Faulks’ description of the Koran.
“I could list thousands of scholars, politicians and academics who have given nothing but amazing praise for the Koran, and I am talking about non-Muslims. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Bill Clinton to name just a few.
Jefferson reported to John Jay:
The ambassador answered us that [the right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.
“I actually find his comments amusing, not offensive. They sound like the braying of someone who is rather resentful and un-objective, I would like to be able to sit down and have an informed debate about the Koran with him.”
He said Faulks’ statement runs the risk of stirring religious hatred against Muslims.
“Attacks on Islam are nothing new, but the danger is this will have a “drip, drip” effect.
“People don’t seem to understand the consequences of saying things like this could be quite severe. History tells us it can encourage hatred.”
Inayat Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Britain, said Faulks’ view of the Koran was “blinkered”.
“The Prophet Muhammad has had many detractors both during his own time and later on who described him as a ‘madman’ or ‘possessed by an evil spirit’ and so forth in an effort to drown out his beautiful message,” he added.
“Sebastian Faulks should perhaps draw a lesson from the fact that those detractors are all now long forgotten, whereas the Prophet is remembered with love and admiration.”…