Wednesday, 26 August 2009

"The book I just couldn't put down". Free speech alert!

 (Brief background: Author Sebastian Faulks was interviewed about his new book, A Week in December, in the UK’s Telegraph.  He made some fairly tart remarks about the Koran and Muhammad.  Amongst other things, he said that Muhammad could be considered to have been schizophrenic, given that he heard voices in his head (true!).  Two days later, the Telegraph has pulled the original interview and Faulks is in the Telegraph again, this time with a full column of apologia, all of a sudden finding great merit in the Koran, and Muhammad a model of leadership.)
PF Letter to the Sebastian Faulks website:
Like many others, I was disturbed to see the apology by Mr. Faulks to the allegedly upset and offended Muslims....  I happened to agree with pretty much all of what he said in his original article, [pulled from the Telegraph, and only available here].  the one in which he robustly characterised the Koran as “very one dimensional”, “a depressing book”, and about Muhammad, said:  “Muhammad had nothing to say to the world other than, 'If you don't believe in God you will burn forever.’”
These are demonstrably true statements (at least, they are the conclusions of a reasonable, sane and analytical mind on reading the source work).
What on earth possessed Mr. Faulks to issue the craven apology for upsetting the over-delicate sensitivities of some Muslims?  Who — which Muslim organisation -- was it that scared him into the retraction of his views expressed so robustly, into apology, into “humility”, into “plenty of respect”?
On a proposed meeting with Ajmal Masroor, spokesman of the Islamic Council for Britain, why does Mr. Faulks think it necessary to “navigate” by a “cultural compass” of Mr. Masroor’s Islam, rather than expect Mr. Masroor to navigate by the prevailing cultural compass of the surrounding, British, culture?  To take the metaphor a bit further, navigating by two compasses, if they read differently — as one assumes from the context they will -- is surely a recipe for getting well and truly lost.
Why does Mr. Faulks say “I would enter any such dialogue with a degree of humility and
plenty of respect for his religion and his scripture” (my emphasis).  Isn’t it enough to approach such a meeting with sincerity and an open mind.  (“humility”? “respect”?? and “plenty” of it?? gild that lily, sir !..).