Monday, August 27, 2007

The bomb party

"Palestinian society has channelled a good deal of thought and energy into the solemnisation of suicide-mass murder, a process which begins in kindergarten. Naturally, one would be reluctant to question the cloudless piety of the Palestinian mother who, having raised one suicide-mass murderer, expressed the wish that his younger brother would become a suicide-mass murderer too. But the time has come to cease to respect the quality of her 'rage' - to cease to marvel at the unhingeing rigour of Israeli oppression, and to start to marvel at the power of an entrenched and emulous ideology, and a cult of death. And if oppression is what we're interested in, then we should think of the oppression, not to mention the life-expectancy (and, God, what a life), of the younger brother. There will be much stopping and starting to do. It is painful to stop believing in the purity, and the sanity, of the underdog. It is painful to start believing in a cult of death, and in an enemy that wants its war to last for ever."
In an effort to raise the quality of the debate about Islam, I suggest everybody read Martin Amis on The age of horrorism.


Anonymous said...

Can a person be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time?

This Priest says YES


Anonymous said...

you're taking the piss. that exert sounds like wingnut propaganda.

stephen said...

What precisely is wrong with the excerpted text, Che? Is it an admirable thing to bring up a second son to be a suicide-bomber?

Anonymous said...

that "cult of death" bullshit is anti-islamic propaganda. no more, no less.

tell me stephen, is it an acceptable thing to bring a son to be a baby-murdering marine?

because both stereotypes are equally contemptuous.

stephen said...

Eh, but these are not parallel, and importantly, Amis is not describing a stereotype, but an actual phenomenon - raising children to be suicide bombers.


You would have to find me some Americans who explicitly raise their children to kill babies, justified by their faith, to make that a reasonable comparison.

Note that Amis is very careful to consistently use the term "Islamist". I'm kind of surprised Paul doesn't.

Anonymous said...

stephen did you read the article?

it "godwins" about half-way into the first part, where it describes a book called 'milestones' the 'mein kampf' of islamism.

the author has started with a premise that radical islam is evil, and builds his tale from there.

granted it's beautifully written, but is fundamentally anti-islamic, and i'm surprised paul ran with it.

it's the anti-islamism that makes the steretyping of palestinians as raising "murderers" such despicable moral equivocation.

your assertion about raising marines to be baby-killers is irrelevant, because the military is the american "mother" who trains boys of 18 to murder.

stephen said...

You'd hardly expect a website called the Fundy Post to feature things in favour of a religion, would you?

Is it controversial among atheists that radical Islam (or radical any religion) is evil?

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling said...

"it "godwins" about half-way into the first part, where it describes a book called 'milestones' the 'mein kampf' of islamism."

Godwin's law is a prediction Che, not a fallacy. It is still acceptable to draw Nazi analogies where appropriate.

Anonymous said...

i accept that nazi analogies are sometimes appropriate.

but the attempt in this case was not to draw an analogy. the attempt was to make the reader associate 'milestones' with some kind of deep-seated evil.

and "evil" is a value judgement. radical islam is not "evil". it is radical and extreme.

and being radical and extreme it is not worse in application than the catholic ira or the hindu tamil tigers.

there's this meme circulating among wingnuts that terrorism is the result of some kind of deep-seated evil inherent in islam. but that is simply propaganda.

terrorism is the preserve of the powerless. if your army can't stand up to anothers then guerrilla tactics become your prime method to apply force. it worked in the colonies versus king george, it worked in spain versus napoleon.

it's not "evil". it's a strategy.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I suggest your effort to “raise the quality of debate about Islam(ism?)” is doomed to failure because, on the evidence of this article, Martin Amis appears to be a poor scholar and a Eurocentric bigot. His main points of difference from other bigoted poor scholars who write on these topics (such as Ian Wishart) are that he’s cleverer at writing and is anti-religion per se. And his fiction sells more books (though if they’re anything like the fevered fantasies of the unpublished book revealed in this article, I really wonder why). I looked in vain for any ‘insights’ that hadn’t become clich├ęs within a couple of years of 9/11, thanks to the rapid transmission through the mainstream media of the ideas of anti-Muslim historians like Bernard Lewis, on whom Amis is heavily reliant.

Examples of poor scholarship and sophistry:

1. Google counts. He writes: ”Type in the combined names of ‘Jenin’ and ‘Auschwitz’ – I came up with 2,890 references.” Well, you would, wouldn’t you? But what does this prove? Hyperbole is universal? I wonder if he tried ‘Zionism’ and ‘population displacement’? Or ‘East Berlin’, ‘Palestine’ and ‘Walls’? There is barely a mention of the conditions under which Palestinians have been forced to live, their dysfunctional response to state terrorism being traced to the writings of Sayyid Qutb. (Similarly, Amos uses a 'literary determinist' explanation of “the emotional dynamic of the Soviet experiment”, on the grounds that Lenin read the work of a bad Russian novelist five times in the course of a single summer! Perhaps this is why Amis is acclaimed as “original, creative”?)

2. His claim that Qutb is the father of Islamism (political Islam has a much older, broader history, eg, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928)

3. His claim that suicide bombing is a uniquely Muslim tactic (I doubt that the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka have read Qutb), and conflating political Islam and the tactic of suicide bombing.

4. The fact that his critique slips between ‘Islamism’ and ‘Islam’ without always distinguishing between the two. This is the tactic of picking the worst example to denigrate a whole group. (Just like the menz leaflet cited in a post below, which cites Andrea Dworkin as representative of feminism).

5. “We are not hearing from moderate Islam.” Well, the essence of moderation is not to make headlines, and the media hasn’t yet seen the commercial potential of running stories about the lives of moderate people quietly getting on with their lives. But in fact, there are many moderate Muslims writing about politics, for example, Ziauddin Sardar, who has also appeared in the Guardian. Perhaps Amis chooses not to listen to them.

6. His claim that “the West had no views whatever about Islam per se before 11 September 2001”. On the contrary: “The West” has had views about Islam – negative ones - ever since (as he later writes) “…the beginning of the 20th century, the entire Muslim world, with partial exceptions, had been subjugated by the European empires.” It is a view of a subjugated people and is rife in western culture, and blatant during the 1970s oil crisis.

7. His overweening hypocrisy: “our moral advantage”, “male Westerners will be struck, here, by a dramatic cultural contrast”, as if wife-beating isn’t a common practice in our countries, to which many still turn a blind eye or even defend. His annoyance that his blonde child ought not to have had her rucksack inspected at the airport because she was not one of Them (people who look like they come from the Middle East).

8. His cultural insensitivity: “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 [get this outrageous inference] and the mask was saying that killing me, my wife, and my children was something for which he now had a warrant.” How does that kind of bigotry "raise the quality of debate"?

My response can be summarised in a three-word review I once found on Amazon (can’t remember the book in question, not one by Amis):


Anonymous said...

In an effort to raise the standard of rebuttal, I offer two excerpts by critics of Martin Amis’s essay. I found them insightful.

The first, by Indian writer Pankaj Mishra, was published in the Observer the week after The Age of Horrorism:

Martin Amis's essay on Islam and Islamism goes on for more than 10,000 words without describing an individual experience of Muslim societies deeper than Christopher Hitchens's acquisition of an Osama T-shirt in Peshawar and the Amis family's failure to enter, after closing time, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

'The impulse towards rational inquiry,' Amis asserts, 'is by now very weak in the rank and file of the Muslim male.' There are countless other startling claims (according to Amis, the army was on the Islamist side in the Algerian civil war) in his essay, whose pseudo-scholarship and fanatical conviction of moral superiority make it resemble nothing more than one of bin Laden's desperately literary screeds.

Such a bold and hectic display of prejudice and ignorance invites the dinner-party frivolity of Amis's genitals-centric analysis (constipation and sexual frustration) of radical Islam. But what forces us to take it seriously is not only that its author is one of our leading novelists, but also that his cliches about non-western peoples (they are all very irrational out there) and strident belief in 'Western' rationality are now commonplace in elite liberal-left as well as conservative circles in the government and media.,,1874132,00.html#article_continue

The second, by Ziauddin Sardar, was written a few months later. Sardar has been appointed a commissioner of the UK Commission for Equality and Human Rights:

...Novelists are no longer just novelists - they are also global pundits shaping our opinions on everything from art, life and politics to civilisation as we know it.

What we want from them is clear: insight into the human condition. From the most favourable conditions in human history, we have generated terror, war and a proliferation of tensions grounded in mutual fear and hatred. Humanity is unquestionably in need of help. But is it amenable to literary soundbites? Do literary pundits provide us with the best insight into our conundrums or serve as useful guides to the future?

The British literary landscape is dominated by three writers: Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan. All three have considered the central dilemma of our time: terror. Indeed, Amis has issued something of a manifesto on the subject he terms "horrorism". In their different styles, their approach and opinions define a coherent position. They are the vanguard of British literary neoconservatives, or, if you like, the "Blitcons"...

[But] There are exotic creatures they cannot imagine in their fictions and diatribes: the generality of Muslims, people who believe in something other than the Blitcons' understanding of Islam, people who live humdrum lives on the streets of Bradford, Karachi or Jakarta, people far removed from the festering imagination of the Blitcon. Amis has never even met an ordinary Muslim in his life.

But I lie. He has met one. In "The Age of Horrorism", Amis tells us that in Jerusalem he came face to face with the "maximum malevolence" of an Islamist, the gatekeeper at the Dome of the Rock. Amis writes that he wanted to enter the mosque in contravention of some "calendric prohibition" - there are none, actually - which led to a transformation in the gatekeeper: "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." By the simple observation of facial expression, Amis was able to divine the entire plot. But might it not be that the humble gatekeeper had never encountered such an obnoxious, arrogant and ignorant tourist?...

The real world is not a fiction. The ideology of mass murder has a history and a context in all its perversity and evil. But the wild imaginings of the Blitcons are not an appropriate guide to the eradication of this horror. Turned to this end, the manipulative power of literary imagination is nothing but spin. And such spin is simply hatred answering, mirroring and matching hatred. Like minds reach across intervening swaths of the world and, in their hatred, embrace each other. That is all Blitcons tell us. But it is hardly enlightening for those of us desperate to find a sustainable path from destruction and slaughter.

Anonymous said...

Christchurch and Wellington residents may be interested in this documentary about the vilification of Arabs in popular western culture, to be shown at the Date Palm Film Festival in September.

2006 USA 55 minutes
Documentary in English

This not-to-be-missed groundbreaking documentary dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged from the earliest days of silent film to today's biggest Hollywood blockbusters.

Featuring acclaimed author Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs - from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding "terrorists", along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images. Shaheen shows how the persistence of these images over time has served to naturalise prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs and the effects of specific US domestic and international policies on their lives.

Trailer available here:

Anonymous said...

Amis writes: “the West had no views whatever about Islam per se before 11 September 2001”.

Not according to the late Edward Said, whose book "Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World" was first published in 1981 and reprinted in 1997.

Anonymous said...


British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD) was launched in 2006 by a group of practicing Muslims, who are journalists, writers, filmmakers and activists in response to a series of crises including the 7 July bombings and the Danish cartoon riots less than a year later.

The group has said that its aim is to encourage the British media to move beyond "easy and simplistic portrayal of Muslims"...BMSD has also warned against simplistic depictions of Islamic radicalism and has said it believes that social class, education, sexuality, gender, ethnicities, politics and culture all impact on the way Muslims interact with wider society...

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is the most high-profile member of the group with a prominent background in leftwing journalism and left-leaning thinktanks.

Anonymous said...

yeah, what those guys who've actually, you know, read stuff, said.

i was just running off my gut instinct. you know, the truthyness of it.

Anonymous said...

A possible silver lining to the shocking, unjustifiable events of 9/11 is that it motivated many people to read the perspectives of Muslim commentators. As a lefty atheist, I found Zia Sardar’s Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim (2004) a jolly good read. Many of his personal insights into activist political Islam – the sectarianism, the power struggles – were recognisable as characteristics of the activist left (and probably any political group, for that matter). He has a lively sense of humour, and doesn’t at all fit the stereotype of the unreflective, unquestioning zealots in Amis’s imagination. Obviously, I don’t agree with his viewpoint on everything, but I was delighted to find – after my amateur attempt at rebuttal – that his views on Amis’s essay matched mine. I acknowledge him, and others like him, for raising my awareness.

Anonymous said...

Apropos the excerpt in Paul’s post at the beginning of this thread, over at The Briefing Room, Ian Wishart has posted a YouTube video in which indoctrinated Palestinian children give their views on the joys awaiting martyrs.

Says one young girl: “We benefit not from this life, but from the Afterlife.”

The post is titled “A reminder of the problem”.

But I was reminded of another comment, made by Ian in February 2005, in his online discussion forum, in a discussion about God’s role in natural disasters.

“Christians on the other hand see natural life as a chrysalis stage, to a better life beyond. If 80,000 mostly Muslim kids are killed in a Tsunami and go to heaven, they're a whole lot better off than becoming adult Muslims. “

I was so gobsmacked by this statement that I saved the whole comment, to maintain the context. I hope Paul won't mind if I copy it below. asked
From: Wishart
Category: Category 1
Date: 19/02/05
Time: 17:05:46
Remote Name:


You wrote: "Why is it reasonable for you to ask and expect God to intervene in the natural order of things to save the natural life of one child, yet, for some reason (yet to be explained), it is unreasonable for me to ask why God wouldn't intervene in the natural order of things to save the lives of eighty thousand (or, now, given latest information - over one hundred thousand children)?"

"How do you rationalise this?"

OK Neil...what you're really after is for God to declare his hand and show his face in the here and now, putting an end to human history in the process. Because God only has two ways of saving 80,000 kids here as I see it: one, he prevents the Tsunami or earthquake from ever happening so no one dies from one. Or two, that he miraculously intervenes after the event and openly resurrects the victims.

If option one occurred, you'd never know God was involved and you for one certainly wouldn't be giving him the glory for it. For all I know God intervenes on a daily basis to prevent catastrophes, but if I posted a message saying God saved 6 billion lives today by preventing an asteroid from starting on a collision course towards earth you'd scoff.

Option two is the sort of event that happens at the end of time. There would be no room for anybody to deny the existence of God if Option 2 had happened, yet even if God did this you would still find a reason to whine and whinge at him about other things, so what would it ultimately achieve?

As I've said to you all along, your questions are always based on the same presupposition, that our natural lives are the pinnacle of God's plan for humanity and therefore that God should do everything possible to make natural lives safe and snuggly.

Christians on the other hand see natural life as a chrysalis stage, to a better life beyond. If 80,000 mostly Muslim kids are killed in a Tsunami and go to heaven, they're a whole lot better off than becoming adult Muslims.

And until the second coming, death is a natural event. Every single one of us dies, and we only die once. Every single person who died in the Tsunami was going to die at some point, and as I think I showed in my previous post the Tsunami was a drop in the bucket in terms of global deaths that week.

Every death causes heartache. Ironically, in my TV reporter days, I found many families touched by death in news events found it easier to handle than the quiet private deaths, because when death is part of a larger event people rationalise it differently.

And finally, if all the above is true, why would God intervene to save anyone's life in the natural? Because as the New Testament showed time and again, Jesus performed miracles to show the power and glory of God that people may believe.

You hear such reports and you choose not to believe. Others hear them and choose God.