Tuesday, 23 October 2007
By Sabria S Jawhar
BRITISH novelist Martin Amis has joined the growing ranks of Muslim bashers. It reinforces the belief of many Muslims that the West is all too willing to discard its long-cherished values for some simple low-down revenge.
For those of you who don't know Amis, let me explain. He's the darling of British fiction who holds a high place in literary circles and when not writing he's teaching British youth his own values. He is a professor at Manchester University. An interview that Amis gave 14 months ago has surfaced recently. In that interview he said he has the "urge to say the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order. What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation - further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they're from the Mideast or from Pakistan... Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community..."
Wow. He must hate all 1.6 billion of us.
I'm not sure how in Amis' view of the world that I did something that warrants a travel ban, being strip-searched and deported. But it must have been pretty bad.
Amis reflects the "hang ‘em at the airport" attitude, a phrase coined by a Los Angeles police chief in the early 1970s when hijackings were occurring on a weekly basis in the United States. His attitude reflects the curious belief among many Westerners: Who needs due process and the right to a fair trial when a good old-fashioned lynching will do the trick?
After his comments exposed him for the man he is, Amis went on British television to defend himself. His explanation of his Islamphobia were the key words of "urge to say." As long as he cloaked his comments in an "urge to say" all is well and good and why is everybody so upset? It's an urge, an impulse. He argues that we should not deny our emotions. It's perfectly acceptable to lash out at a group of people when a few nut cases blow up innocent people.
But it's a coward's response to believe that the average reader is dumb enough not to get the message. As if "urge to say" makes hate speech and denial of basic human rights somehow more acceptable.
Amis went on the Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom the other night in his attempt to explain that he was only speaking of an "urge" and wasn't really advocating mass deportations, strip-searches and the general persecution of Muslims worldwide. No, he wanted to make the distinction that he was talking about Islamists and not Islam. His problem in the interview was that he never explained what his interpretation of an Islamist is.
Being an Islamist is different things to different people. To Amis, an Islamist smells like a terrorist. I don't generally call myself an Islamist, but what if I did? To me, that sounds like a nationalist, a patriot, a student and advocate of Islam. I know many people who identify themselves as Islamists in direct response to Westerners trying to make it a dirty word. Why shouldn't we be Islamists? It's nothing to be ashamed of.
Amis vaguely went on to say that being an Islamist is an ideology within Islam and that he felt morally superior to Islamists. What that ideology is, I wouldn't have a clue and I got the impression from Amis he doesn't either. And the real terror comes from the fact that Amis is teaching British students his view of the world.
There are people like Amis all over the world and they are little better than some so-called Muslim clerics urging suicide bombers to attain martyrdom by killing innocents and the neo-conservatives in Washington who have ripped to shreds the US Constitution and Bill of Rights in the name of freedom and security.
What appalls me most is the willingness of a large group of people to abandon their values in the name of freedom and security. Or maybe it's to keep freedom and security for themselves and not share it with the rest of the world. The neo-conservatives are a tiny minority who don't reflect the goodness in the traditional Western values just as violent militants don't share the same values as the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide. But unfortunately, those with the loudest voices get the most attention.
There will always be people like Martin Amis who are willing to vent their need for revenge and be all-too-willing to sacrifice the things they hold so dear to them. And that is where I feel morally superior to people like him. I won't give up my Islamic values of peace and tolerance to respond to his hate.