The headline gets it wrong: ‘Amis launches scathing response to accusations of Islamophobia.’ No he doesn’t, he doesn’t mention the word, and neither does Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the piece Martin Amis is responding to. Both of them talk more sensibly and precisely. Alibhai-Brown says ‘the Muslim-baiters and haters’ and Amis says ‘anti-Muslim measures.’ But no, we mustn’t use language in such a finicky careful way, we must use it sloppily, so that people will keep on getting the idea that dislike of Islam is exactly the same thing as mindlessly impartial hatred of Muslims. We must do it twice in the space of two sentences: ‘Martin Amis defended himself yesterday against allegations of Islamophobia.’ We must do our stupid little bit to make criticism of Islam more difficult and socially suspect.
Eagleton doesn’t seem to have gained a lot of fans though – that’s something. Philip Hensher seems to find him pretty thoroughly meritless.
We could be cruel, and point out that Marxists of Professor Eagleton’s stamp have to justify their existence in a way they didn’t when, for instance, I used to attend his lectures at Oxford in the early 1980s. Let us resist the temptation. We should probably treat them with the same respect and mild curiosity that we should of a man who still worshipped at the shrine of Woden.
But Richard Lea is still worried. He thinks Amis is not off the hook yet.
The novelist went on to “declare that ‘harassing the Muslim community in Britain’ would be neither moral nor efficacious”, but made no apology for making remarks describing an “urge” that the Muslim community should “suffer”, nor any attempt to respond to wider concerns over his views concerning Islamism
That final phrase is interesting. Wider concerns over his views concerning Islamism (oy, where was his editor? concerns concering? please) – what concerns would those be? What views concerning Islamism is Martin Amis supposed to have? What are the right-on okay acceptable views concerning Islamism? That it’s maybe a little brutal around the edges but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs? That it’s not to everyone’s taste but then revolutions aren’t for the genteel? What? What views is it possible to have about Islamism other than fear and loathing?