Two Observers

Ian McEwan, July 19.

Inevitably, we’re going to start seeing around the preposterous political correctness that allows us to have radical clerics preaching in mosques and recruiting young people. We have been caught too much by a sense that we can just regard these clerics as being like English eccentrics at Hyde Park Corner.

So being ‘devout’ isn’t enough then? Huh.

I don’t buy the arguments in the Iraq war. What keeps getting forgotten here is that the people committing massacres in Iraq right now belong to al-Qaida…But the massacres in Iraq now are being conducted by al-Qaida against Muslims. I also think it’s extraordinary the way in which we get morally selective in our outrages. When there was a rumor that someone at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a Koran down the lavatory, the pages in The Guardian almost caught fire with outrage, but only months before the Taliban had set fire to a mosque and destroyed 300 ancient Korans.

I didn’t know that – remind me to look into it. But the selectiveness of the moral outrage – oh yeah. Big time. All the guff about rage and alienation and disaffection – no, not offered as pure disinterested explanation, as one might offer overexposure to the midday sun to explain a sunburn – which never, ever gets rolled out for the BNP or Timothy McVeigh or murderers of doctors who do abortions – that guff. Why is that? I don’t know, but I hope people get over it soon.

Polly Toynbee, July 22.

The death cult strikes again, unstoppable in its deranged religious mania. This time no deaths but a savage reminder of the unknown waves of demented killers lining up to murder in the name of God…In the growing fear and anger at what more may be to come, apologists or explainers for these young men can expect short shrift. This is not about poverty, deprivation or cultural dislocation of second-generation immigrants. There is plenty of that and it is passive. Iraq is the immediate trigger, but this is about religious delusion.

Partly – I think. Religious delusion joined to testosterone-syndrome joined to a fascist love of violence for its own sake joined to thrill-seeking. But r.d. sure does its bit.

Enlightenment values are in peril not because these mad beliefs are really growing but because too many rational people seek to appease and understand unreason…Meanwhile the far left, forever thrilled by the whiff of cordite, has bizarrely decided to fellow-travel with primitive Islamic extremism as the best available anti-Americanism around. (Never mind their new friends’ views on women, gays and democracy.)

Exactly – except for the far left bit. I refuse to consider anyone who hugs talibanism as any kind of left at all. If that’s far left it’s so ‘far’ that it’s gone all the way around to the other side.

Bombs do change things, maybe not in the extremists’ favour. A great shift in attitude seems to have swept through many Muslim groups who signed the full-page newspaper statement yesterday headed “Not in Our Name”. Many were equivocators on the fatwa that had Salman Rushdie locked away for years.

And as ‘The World Tonight’ pointed out on Tuesday (I think it was Tuesday), if people who rush off to interview ‘the Muslim community’ would stop talking exclusively to men, that might help too. The Muslim women that reporter talked to had nothing but contempt and anger for the whole sorry mess.

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