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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Bennett to Amis: Shame on Us

Novelist Ronan Bennett takes Martin Amis to task for “as odious an outburst of racist sentiment as any public figure has made in this country for a very long time.”

Muslims bridle at the broad strokes by which they are depicted. Every time a writer or politician or policeman begins a sentence by saying “Muslims must …”, there is little recognition of the sheer variety of belief within Islam, or of the cultural diversity among Muslims, or of the everyday pragmatic reality of what it means in a secular age to believe in God and to try to live by that belief. In this respect Muslims are like anyone else. Some are devout, some are not at all, some are not very much, and some are devout sometimes. Some are sinners; they fall down and try to get up again. Some are hypocrites who fall down and pretend to be still on their feet. Many fail to live up to their religion’s, and their own, high expectations of themselves. Many have sex outside marriage, as many Catholics do. Some Muslims drink alcohol, as some Jews eat pork. A few, in common with a few Christians, think gay people should be murdered. Observant Muslims contest, dispute, accept and reject points of doctrine exactly as those from other faiths do. The Qur’an, as one Muslim put it to me, is not a program to be loaded and Muslims are not computers.

2 Responses to “Bennett to Amis: Shame on Us”

  1. Shawn says:

    That all sounds nice and high minded but–if you read the first paragraph of Bennet’s essay–Bennet sets up a straw man equating Muslims with Asians, Blacks, and Jews. Muslim is not an ethnic group. I know many people like to equate Muslim=Arab in order to fabricate an argument that being critical of Islam is the same as racism–which is actually in itself racist.

    Make no mistake, there is anti-Arab racism, but to conflate criticism of Islam with Arab racism simply confuses the issue.

    I have no interest in defending Martin Amis but, as for “what it means in a secular age to believe in God and to try to live by that belief”, I really don’t care. Nor should I or anyone have to care. People’s religious beliefs are their choice and their problem, not mine. People are entitled to have any belief they like, but (and here is the essence of what it means to live in a secular and democratic society) I don’t have to agree with it, I am free to criticize it, mock it, or ignore it.

    For all the religious nuts in my country (the United States), I can still say that religious nuts are, well, nuts. Despite all the nefarious efforts of Christian wackos in my country, I am still free to say what I want about religion. The reason I can do this, the reason my country is still free at all is because of secularism. Because the the founders of my country, for all their faults, understood that religious freedom is only truly possible in a society that is essentially secular–or one that at the very least bans official, state sanctioned religion and generally that takes a hands-off approach to religious matters.

    I have no respect for beliefs that openly despise and devalue women–nearly all world religions including and especially Islam. I have no respect for beliefs that praise ignorance and blind submission to authority as a virtues–again all major world religions, including Islam. The only reason why we are able to discuss and argue about Martin Amis instead of simply having him imprisoned or stoned to death for heresy is because we live in a modern secular societies. That’s something to be proud of, not ashamed.

  2. Peter says:

    It’s good to hear someone from the U.S. recognizing the truth that this is not and has never been a Christian country.