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Barbarism indistinguisable from Islam

2008 06 26

‘If September 11 had to happen, I am not at all sorry that it happened in my lifetime. That day and what followed from it: this is a narrative of misery and pain, and also of desperate fascination. Geopolitics may not be my natural subject, but masculinity is. And have we ever seen the male idea in such outrageous garb as the robes, combat fatigues, suits and ties, jeans, tracksuits and medic’s smocks of the Islamic radical?’
Martin Amis

McEwan's attack on Islam reveals only his ignorance
Ian McEwan
Martin Amis
Adrian Hamilton
See also

Sameer Rahim reviews
The Second Plane: September 2001-2007
by Martin Amis

In Martin Amis's novel House of Meetings (2006), a man writing to his step-daughter about his time in the Russian gulag is worried she will misunderstand his "appetite for generalisations".  How can he speak of "Russian heavy-handedness", "Russian drunkenness" and "Russian kindness"? Our narrator, however, has come to realise that making sense of Russian terror requires an understanding of an unchanging "Eastern" character. It does not require reason.

The Second Plane is a new collection of essays and short stories that tries to make sense of September 11, 2001. Arranged in chronological order, the book serves as a memoir of Amis's shifting responses to the attacks for which, he writes in his introduction, he at first sought a "morally intelligible" explanation. This is partly true. His first piece, written on September 18, shows he was afraid ("The temperature of planetary fear has been lifted towards the feverish") and angry ("Violence must come; America must have catharsis"). But he also managed to ask a difficult question: how many Americans knew that its government "had destroyed at least five per cent of the Iraqi population"?

In June 2002 Amis was optimistic that novel writing - sharply defined as "reason at play" - could help in the current global climate; he praised Joyce's Ulysses for its exemplary investigation of "clichés" and "unexamined formulations". But the war on cliché doesn't last. On the same page, the television shows him the "writhing moustaches of Pakistan, prophesying civil war"; in the same piece he writes of the "medieval agonism of Islam".  When he came to write the centrepiece of this book - a 50-page essay called "Terror and Boredom: the Dependent Mind", published in 2006 - he had, like his fictional Gulag survivor, grown wary of "rationalist naiveté".

All religions, wrote Amis, are repositories of "ignorance, reaction and sentimentality". Since "we are hearing from Islam" in the form of terrorist attacks, it must be examined ahead of all others. In the Islamic East, "we acknowledge, almost every living citizen … is intimately defined by religious belief". The "civil war" between moderate and extreme Islam "appears to be over": the extremists have won. Another problem is Islam's attitude to women. Some internet research into one cleric's views on marriage yields a "cataract of pedantry and smut"; a news magazine shows him a Saudi newscaster beaten to a "crimson pulp" by her husband, apparently because she answered the telephone.

Amis concludes that "the impulse to rational inquiry is by now very weak in the rank and file of the Muslim male".It is a shame that Amis has forgotten his generous words from Koba the Dread (2002), his study of the Soviet Union, where he wrote that Stalin's "war against religion was part of the war against human nature".

In a later piece in the new collection he castigates "those sanguinary yokels, the Taliban" but he does not mention the context for their rise: the deaths of almost two million Afghan civilians since the Russian invasion in 1979 - a fact included in Koba the Dread.

Amis sometimes gets the facts wrong. "We now know what happens when Islamism gets its hands on an army (Algeria)", he warns, when the two were on opposing sides. When complaining about the looting of the Baghdad Museum after the invasion of 2003, he carefully uses the phrase "Mesopotamian heritage" as though there were no Islamic artefacts worth stealing. Although he writes of the "extreme incuriosity of Islamic culture", his view of the Islamic world is taken from the powerful images he has seen in the media. What is missing from these pages is a sense of everyday Muslim life.

Amis might learn something of this from novelists such as Attia Hosain or Naguib Mahfouz. Muslim feminists such as Nawal El Sadaawi or Fatima Mernisi might also enlighten him.

The short stories here are pointless and unpleasant. "In the Palace of the End" is a lurid imagining of one of Saddam Hussein's torture palaces. "The Last Days of Muhammad Atta" features a constipated terrorist who sounds a lot like Martin Amis. ("The themes of recurrence and prolongation, he sensed, were already beginning to associate themselves with his last day").

In an earlier novel, Yellow Dog (2003), Amis had fun writing a tabloid editorial on the frustrations of airport security checks: "some gimp of a granny" is searched "while the dune rat called Zui'zide al Bomba sails past … followed by his three best friends, Hijaq, Kydnap and Drugrun."

The tabloid's publisher agrees: "Anyone who looks remotely Arab should have their lives made an absolute torment for the rest of the century." The satire has now disappeared.

In "The Unknown Known", an extract from an unfinished novel recently published in Granta 100, a terrorist called Ayed - named after Improvised Explosive Device (IED) - has an accomplice called Truqbom. In "Terror and Boredom" Amis feels airport security "should stick … to young men who look like they're from the Middle East".

Fear and anger have radicalised Amis. He needs to rethink before he completely transforms into one of his own vivid stereotypes.

McEwan's attack on Islam reveals only his ignorance
Adrian Hamilton 2008 06 28

It was no doubt a noble gesture on Ian McEwan's part last weekend to leap to the defence of his friend, Martin Amis, over the charges of racism against Muslims. And it was perhaps even bolder of McEwan to add his own total contempt for "Islamism". The resort to the accusation of "racism" has become too facile a response to anyone coming out against Islamic beliefs. And a novelist no less than a taxi driver has every right to proclaim, as McEwan did (in pretty ferocious terms, mind you), that "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."

We do indeed know it well, because we keep being told by those such as McEwan, Amis, Christopher Hitchens and the rest of the clash-of-civilisations literary brigade that it is so. Indeed, as a catalogue of the failings of Islamism, and by extension of all Islam, McEwan's enunciation of the despicable are pretty much the received wisdom of our time. It is not that which I object to. What is objectionable is not the triteness of their views but the way that they present them as if they were somehow brave and outspoken, a courageous gesture against the norms of political correctness. In reality they are simply the mirror image of the views propagated by the worst of the mullahs, and playing directly into their hands.

There is nothing more that the "preachers of hate", as they are called, could wish for than for Western celebrities to come out with vituperative condemnation of their faith, in cartoons, on the screens, across the airwaves or in the press. It feeds their strongest assertion that Islam is under attack from a secular West that rejects every tenet not just of their belief but of their way of life. There are none who subscribe to the theory of the "clash of civilisations" as fully as the Wahhabi mullahs.

It is a question for theologians to debate how far Islam's views of homosexuality, the place of women, the punishment for adultery are the products of the revelation in the Koran itself and how far they stem from the sayings of the Hadith, subject to reinterpretation in the light of our understanding of their times and our own. It's the same issue with fundamental Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and most religions relying on texts written down second hand; an area of endless argument but not one the outsider is wise to enter. But you don't have to go very far in the world to see that the suppression of women, the dire punishments for sexual misconduct and the orthodoxy of practice are very far from being exclusive to Islam. The practice of suttee in India and female circumcision in Africa were not invented by Mohamad. Nor do you have to go very far to find the direst threats against those who would disobey the cultural norms. Only on Monday a bishop at the meeting of conservative Anglican clerics in Jerusalem was arguing (with rather too much relish, I thought) that "the punishment for homosexuality in the Bible is death".

Nor do you have to go very far to understand that religion is, and has always been, a political weapon, a means of identification and discrimination that has very little to do with the spiritual quest of the believer. If Islam is so aggressive and so associated with particular anti-Western feeling, it is because of the politics of our day, not religion. And if, as is the case, the exercise of intolerance is intensifying in much of the Muslim world, it is equally because of the play of power in the region and the effect of Western policies on that power play.

Dig a little deeper and you will find that the greatest force for change in the Middle East does indeed come from women redefining their role. But it is not secularism that is driving them (far from it) but the desire for social reform, just as it is in the calls for modernisation in the developing regions.

The more that the West demands change from outside, the more it makes such issues as women's rights the litmus test of reform, the more difficult it makes the task of those pushing for change from within. The more it resorts to terms such as "Islamofacism" and "mediaevalism", the greater its ignorance of the pressures and the possibilities of societies in flux today. There are no generalities, just particulars, specific to place, person and moment.

You would have thought that the novelist of all artists would understand this. Apparently not. But at least McEwan, Amis and the rest are showing one thing: that the condemnation of that which you have no wish to understand is as much the prerogative of the secularists as it is of the religious.

Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan, CBE, FRSA, FRSL, (born June 21, 1948) is a Booker Prize winning English novelist.

McEwan was born in Aldershot in England and spent much of his childhood in East Asia, Germany and North Africa, where his Scottish army officer father, David McEwan, was posted. He was educated at Woolverstone Hall School, the University of Sussex and the University of East Anglia, where he was the first graduate of Malcolm Bradbury's pioneering creative writing course.

He has been married twice. His second wife, Annalena McAfee, was formerly the editor of The Guardian's Review section. In 1999, his first wife, Penny Allen, took their 13-year-old son after a court in Brittany, France, ruled that the boy should be returned to his father, who had been granted sole custody over him and his 15-year-old brother.

In March and April 2004, just months after the British government invited him to dinner with Laura Bush, McEwan was denied entry into the United States by the Department of Homeland Security for not having the proper visa. After several days' publicity in the British press, McEwan was admitted because, as he quoted a customs official telling him, "We still don't want to let you in, but this is attracting a lot of unfavourable publicity." The US government later sent a letter of apology.

McEwan is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation, Hamburg, in 1999. Ian McEwan is also a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He was awarded a CBE in 2000.

In 2002, Ian McEwan discovered that he had a brother who had been given up for adoption during World War II - the story became public in 2007. The brother, a bricklayer named David Sharpe, was born six years earlier than McEwan, when his mother was married to a different man. Sharpe has the same two parents as McEwan but was born from an affair between McEwan's parents that occurred before their marriage. After her first husband was killed in combat, McEwan's mother married her lover, and Ian was born a few years later.

In late 2006, Lucilla Andrews' autobiography No Time for Romance became the focus of a posthumous controversy (she died in October 2006) when it was alleged that McEwan plagiarized from this work while writing his highly acclaimed novel Atonement. McEwan publicly protested his innocence; in The Guardian newspaper, he responded to the claim, stating he had acknowledged Andrews' work in the author's note at the end of Atonement. McEwan has been defended by many leading writers, including the American novelist Thomas Pynchon. Comments had also been made about the questionable originality of his first novel, The Cement Garden, and the writer Claire Henderson-Davis suggested to McEwan that his book On Chesil Beach had been inspired by the name of her mother, and the life stories of her parents.McEwan has denied this claim.

In 2008, McEwan publicly spoke out against Islamism for its views on women and homosexuality. According to him, fundamentalist Islam wanted to create a society that he abhorred. His comments appeared in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, to defend fellow writer Martin Amis against allegations of racism. According to McEwan, Christianity was equally absurd and that he didn't "like these medieval visions of the world according to which God is coming to save the faithful and to damn the others."

His first published work was a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites (1975), which won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976. The Cement Garden (1978) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) were his two earliest novels. The nature of these works caused him to be nicknamed "Ian Macabre" . These were followed by three novels of some success in the 1980s and early 1990s.

His 1997 novel, Enduring Love, about a person with de Clerambault's syndrome, is regarded by many as a masterpiece, though it was not shortlisted for the Booker Prize. In 1998, he was awarded the Booker Prize for his novel Amsterdam. His next novel, Atonement, received considerable high acclaim; Time Magazine named it the best novel of 2002, and it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His next work, Saturday, follows an especially eventful day in the life of a successful neurosurgeon. Henry Perowne, the main character, lives in a house on a well-known square in central London, where McEwan now lives after having relocated from Oxford. Saturday won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for 2005. His most recent novel, On Chesil Beach, was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize. McEwan has also written a number of produced screenplays, a stage play, children's fiction, and an oratorio.

As of August 2007 McEwan is writing the libretto to an opera called "For You", which tells the story of a composer whose sexual and professional prowess have passed their peak. It is being composed by Michael Berkeley and is set to be performed in 2008.

Martin Amis

Martin Amis (born August 25, 1949) is an English novelist, essayist and short story writer. His works include such novels as London Fields (1989) and The Information (1995). Amis's raw material is what he sees as the absurdity of the postmodern condition with its grotesque caricatures. He has thus sometimes been portrayed as the undisputed master of what the New York Times has called "the new unpleasantness."

The Guardian writes that "all his critics have noted what Kingsley Amis [his father] complained of as a 'terrible compulsive vividness in his style ... that constant demonstrating of his command of English'; and it's true that the Amis-ness of Amis will be recognisable in any piece before he reaches his first full stop."

Amis's paternal grandfather was a mustard clerk from Clapham, and his maternal grandfather a shoe millionaire. His parents, Hilary Bardwell and Kingsley Amis, divorced when he was twelve. Much later, Martin lived in a house with Kingsley, Hilly, and Hilly's third husband, Alistair Boyd, Lord Kilmarnock. Amis has described it as "[s]omething out of early Updike, 'Couples' flirtations and a fair amount of drinking," he told The New York Times. "They were all 'at it'."

Born in Oxford, England, Martin was the middle of three children, with an older brother, Philip, and a younger sister, Sally. He attended a number of different schools in the 1950s and 1960s including Swansea Grammar School. The acclaim that followed Kingsley's first novel Lucky Jim sent the Amises to Princeton, New Jersey, where Kingsley lectured. This was Amis's introduction to the United States.

Martin Amis read comic books until his stepmother, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, introduced him to Jane Austen, a writer he often names as his earliest influence. After teenage years spent in flowery shirts and a short spell at Westminster School while living in Hampstead, he graduated from Exeter College, Oxford with a "Formal" First in English — "the sort where you are called in for a viva and the examiners tell you how much they enjoyed reading your papers."

After Oxford, he found an entry-level job at The Times Literary Supplement, and at age 27 became literary editor of The New Statesman, where he met Christopher Hitchens, then a feature writer for The Observer, who remains a close friend.

According to Martin, Kingsley Amis famously showed no interest in his son's work. "I can point out the exact place where he stopped and sent Money twirling through the air; that's where the character named Martin Amis comes in." "Breaking the rules, buggering about with the reader, drawing attention to himself," Kingsley complained .

His first novel The Rachel Papers (1973) won the Somerset Maugham Award. The most traditional of his novels, made into an unsuccessful cult film, it tells the story of a bright, egotistical teenager (which Amis acknowledges as autobiographical) and his relationship with the eponymous girlfriend in the year before going to university.

He also wrote the screenplay for the film Saturn 3, and later wrote a roman a clef about its filming.

Dead Babies (1975), more flippant in tone, has a typically "sixties" plot, with a house full of characters who use various substances. A number of Amis's characteristics show up here for the first time: mordant black humour, obsession with the zeitgeist, authorial intervention, a character subjected to sadistically humorous misfortunes and humiliations, and a defiant casualness ("my attitude has been, I don't know much about science, but I know what I like"). A film adaptation was made in 2000 which was also unsuccessful.

Success (1977) told the story of two foster-brothers, Gregory Riding and Terry Service, and their rising and falling fortunes. This was the first example of Amis's fondness for symbolically 'pairing' characters in his novels, which has been a recurrent feature in his fiction since (Martin Amis and Martina Twain in Money, Richard Tull and Gwyn Barry in The Information, and Jennifer Rockwell and Mike Hoolihan in Night Train).

Other People: A Mystery Story (1981), about a young woman coming out of a coma, was a transitional novel in that it was the first of Amis's to show authorial intervention in the narrative voice, and highly artificed language in the heroine's descriptions of everyday objects, which was said to be influenced by his contemporary Craig Raine's 'Martian' school of poetry.

His best-known novels, and the ones most respected by critics, are Money, London Fields, Time's Arrow, and The Information.

Money (1984, subtitled A Suicide Note) is a first-person narrative by John Self, advertising man and would-be film director, who is "addicted to the twentieth century." The book follows him as he flies back and forth across the Atlantic in pursuit of personal and professional success, and describes a series of comic episodes with darker undertones. The vivid and stylised use of language and black humour was a critical success and the book remains Amis's most highly regarded work.

London Fields (1989), Amis's longest work, describes the encounters between three main characters in London in 1999, as a climate disaster approaches. The characters had typically Amisian names and broad caricatured qualities: Keith Talent, the lower-class crook with a passion for darts; Nicola Six, a femme fatale who is determined to be murdered; and upper-middle-class Guy Clinch, 'the fool, the foil, the poor foal' who is destined to come between the other two. The book was reportedly omitted from the Booker Prize shortlist in its year of publication, 1989, because of panel members protesting against its alleged misogyny.

Time's Arrow (1991), the autobiography of a doctor who helped torture Jews during the Holocaust, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, drew notice both for its unusual technique — time runs backwards during the entire novel, down to the dialogue initially being spoken backwards — as well as for its topic.

The size of the advance (an alleged £500,000) demanded and obtained by Amis for The Information (1995) attracted what Amis described as "an Eisteddfod of hostility" from writers and critics after he left his agent of many years, Pat Kavanagh, in order to be represented by the Harvard-educated Andrew "The Jackal" Wylie. Kavanagh is married to Julian Barnes, with whom Amis had been friends for many years, but the incident caused a rift that, according to Amis in his autobiography Experience (1999), has not yet healed.

Night Train (1997) is a short novel in the stylised form of a US police procedural, narrated by the female, but mannish, Detective Mike Hoolihan, who has been called upon to investigate the suicide of her boss's daughter. Amis's American vernacular in the narrative was criticised by, among others, John Updike, although the novel found defenders elsewhere, notably in Janis Bellow, wife of Amis's sometime mentor Saul Bellow.

The memoir Experience is largely about his relationship with his father, Kingsley Amis, though he also writes of being reunited with long-lost daughter, Delilah Seale, the product of an affair in the 1970s, whom he did not see until she was 19, and the story of how one of his cousins, Lucy Partington, became a victim of Fred West when she was 21. The book was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography.

In 2002, Amis published Koba the Dread, a book about the crimes of Stalinism. The book provoked a literary controversy for its approach to the material, and for its attack on his longtime friend Christopher Hitchens, who rebuked his charges in a stinging review in The Atlantic. Asked recently if they were still friends, Amis responded "We never needed to make up. We had an adult exchange of views, mostly in print, and that was that (or, more exactly, that goes on being that). My friendship with the Hitch has always been perfectly cloudless. It is a love whose month is ever May."

In 2003, Yellow Dog, Amis's first novel in six years, was denounced by Tibor Fischer, whose comments were widely reported in the media: "Yellow Dog isn't bad as in not very good or slightly disappointing. It's not-knowing-where-to-look bad. I was reading my copy on the Tube and I was terrified someone would look over my shoulder . . . It's like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating". Elsewhere, the book received mixed reviews, with some critics proclaiming the novel a return to form, but most considered the book to be a great disappointment. Amis was unrepentant about the novel and its reaction, calling Yellow Dog "among my best three". He gave his own explanation for the novel's critical failure, "No one wants to read a difficult literary novel or deal with a prose style which reminds them how thick they are. There's a push towards egalitarianism, making writing more chummy and interactive, instead of a higher voice, and that's what I go to literature for."

In September 2006, Amis published House of Meetings, a short novel about two half-brothers who loved the same woman and who were incarcerated together in a Soviet gulag. In 2008, Amis will publish The Pregnant Widow which marks the beginning of a new four-book deal.

Amis has also released two collections of short stories (Einstein's Monsters and Heavy Water), three volumes of collected journalism and criticism (The Moronic Inferno, Visiting Mrs. Nabokov and The War Against Cliché), and a guide to 1980s space-themed arcade video-game machines (Invasion of the Space Invaders).

Amis returned to Britain in September 2006 after living in Uruguay for two and a half years with his second wife, the writer Isabel Fonseca, and their two young daughters.

He said, "Some strange things have happened, it seems to me, in my absence. I didn't feel like I was getting more rightwing when I was in Uruguay, but when I got back I felt that I had moved quite a distance to the right while staying in the same place." He reports that he is disquieted by what he sees as increasingly undisguised hostility towards Israel and the United States.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Amis was a strong critic of nuclear proliferation. His collection of five stories on this theme, Einstein's Monsters, began with a long essay entitled 'Unthinkability' in which he set out his views on the issue, writing: "nuclear weapons repel all thought, perhaps because they end all thought."

He wrote in "Nuclear City" in Esquire of 1987 (re-published in Visiting Mrs Nabokov) that: "when nuclear weapons become real to you, when they stop buzzing around your ears and actually move into your head, hardly an hour passes without some throb or flash, some heavy pulse of imagined supercatastrophe."

Amis expressed his opinions on terrorism in an extended essay published in The Observer on the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11 in which he criticized the economic development of all Arab countries because their "aggregate GDP... was less than the GDP of Spain", and they "lag[ged] behind the West, and the Far East, in every index of industrial and manufacturing output, job creation, technology, literacy, life-expectancy, human development, and intellectual vitality."

On Muslims living in the West, in an interview conducted by Ginny Dougary in The Times Magazine, Amis said, "There’s a definite urge – don’t you have it? – 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 Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.". The critic Terry Eagleton in the 2007 introduction to his work Ideology attacked Amis for acknowledging this impulse. Eagleton observes that this view is "[n]ot the ramblings of a British National Party thug, [...] but the reflections of Martin Amis, leading luminary of the English metropolitan literary world," who has learnt more from his father, "a racist, anti-Semitic boor, a drink-sodden, self-hating reviler of women, gays and liberals", than "how to turn a shapely phrase".

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote an op-ed piece on the subject condemning Amis and he responded with an open letter to The Independent which the newspaper printed in full. In it, he stated his views had been misrepresented by both Alibhai-Brown and Eagleton.

In response to these criticisms, Amis told the Guardian newspaper:

“ And now I feel that this was the only serious deprivation of my childhood - the awful human colourlessness of South Wales, the dully flickering whites and grays, like a Pathe newsreel, like an ethnic Great Depression. In common with all novelists, I live for and am addicted to physical variety; and my one quarrel with the rainbow is that its spectrum isn't wide enough. I would like London to be full of upstanding Martians and Neptunians, of reputable citizens who came, originally, from Krypton and Tralfamadore. ”

On terrorism, Martin Amis wrote that he suspected "there exists on our planet a kind of human being who will become a Muslim in order to pursue suicide-mass murder," and added: "I will never forget the look on the gatekeeper's face, at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, when I suggested, perhaps rather airily, that he skip some calendric prohibition and let me in anyway. His expression, previously cordial and cold, became a mask; and the mask was saying that killing me, my wife, and my children was something for which he now had warrant."

In comments on the BBC in October 2006 Amis expressed his view that North Korea was the most dangerous of the two remaining members of the Axis Of Evil, but that Iran was our "natural enemy", suggesting that we should not feel bad about having "helped Iraq scrape a draw with Iran" in the Iran-Iraq War, because a "revolutionary and rampant Iran would have been a much more destabilising presence."

His views on Islamism earned him the sobriquet Blitcon from the New Statesman (his former employer), argued to be wrongly applied.

His opinions have been viewed in some quarters as hostile and racist, as written in The Guardian. He has, however, received support from other writers. In The Spectator, Philip Hensher noted,

“ "The controversy raised by Amis’s views on religion as specifically embodied by Islamists is an empty one. He will tell you that his loathing is limited to Islamists, not even to Islam and certainly not to the ethnic groups concerned. The point, I think, is demonstrated, and the openness with which he has been willing to think out loud could usefully be emulated by political figures, addicted as they are to weasel words and double talk. I have to say that from non-practising Muslims I’ve heard language and opinions on Islamists which are far less temperate than anything Amis uses. In comparison to the private expressions of voices of modernity within Muslim societies, Amis is almost exaggeratedly respectful." ”

His new collection of pieces about Islam, The Second Plane, has received mixed reviews. Writing in the Sunday Times, William Dalrymple described the book as "a book that is not just wilfully ignorant, a triumph of style over knowledge, but that, for all its panache and gloss, is at its heart disturbingly bigoted." In The Independent, Cal McCrystal described the collection as "trenchant, deeply informed and informative". Despite mixed reviews, the book is already on its third print-run.

In February 2007, Martin Amis was appointed as a Professor of Creative Writing at The Manchester Centre for New Writing in the University of Manchester, and started in September 2007. He runs postgraduate seminars, and is expected to participate in four public events each year, including a two week summer school for MA students.

Of his position, he said: "I may be acerbic in how I write but... I would find it very difficult to say cruel things to [students] in such a vulnerable position. I imagine I'll be surprisingly sweet and gentle with them." He predicts that the experience might inspire him to write a new book, while adding sardonically: "A campus novel written by an elderly novelist, that's what the world wants.". It has been revealed that the salary paid to Amis by the university is £80,000 a year. The Manchester Evening News broke the story claiming that according to his contract this meant he was paid £3000 an hour for 28 hours a year teaching. The claim was echoed in headlines in several national papers. However like any other member of academic staff his teaching contact hours constitute a minority of his commitments, a point confirmed in the original article by a reply from the University.

Adrian Hamilton

Adrian Hamilton:the Independent’s comment editor, Adrian Hamilton writes a weekly column largely on international affairs with particular focus on the Middle East, Iran and foreign policy issues. Before joining the paper he was deputy editor of the Observer newspaper.

See also
The dark side of liberal Islam
Will the West reject Islam?
Barbarism in Iraq

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