Monday, 24 August 2009

Sebastian Faulks: The New Salman Rushdie?

"It's a depressing book. It really is. It's just the rantings of a schizophrenic."

Award-winning British novelist Sebastian Faulks has "risked angering Muslims" after researching the Qur'an for a new novel, and claiming that it has "no ethical dimension" dismissing the words of Muhammad as the "rantings of a schizophrenic".

For some reason (self-censorship, perhaps?) the original article on this at the Telegraph has been pulled, but below are some extracts accompanied by my comments.

In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Faulks said: "It's a depressing book. It really is. It's just the rantings of a schizophrenic. It's very one-dimensional, and people talk about the beauty of the Arabic and so on, but the English translation I read was, from a literary point of view, very disappointing."

Regarding the "schizophrenic" comment, ex-Muslim Ali Sina presents a compelling case that the "Prophet" had a number of mental disorders in his book Understanding Muhammad.

"Jesus, unlike Muhammad, had interesting things to say. He proposed a revolutionary way of looking at the world: love you neighbour, love your enemy, be kind to people, the meek shall inherit the Earth. Muhammad had nothing to say to the world other than, 'If you don't believe in God you will burn forever.'"

Indeed, it is remarkable how little space the Qur'an devotes to instructing Muslims on how to be good, faithful believers, and how much time it spends spewing vitriol at infidels. It has been estimated that almost two-thirds of the Qur'an is actually about non-Muslims.

Ajmal Masroor, an imam and spokesman for the Islamic Society for Britain, says he does not recognise Faulks' description of the Koran.

"I could list thousands of scholars, politicians and academics who have given nothing but amazing praise for the Koran, and I am talking about non-Muslims. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Bill Clinton to name just a few.

During the Barbary wars, Jefferson reported that the Muslim Barbary States were fighting America because it was "founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Muslim who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise."

Meanwhile, it simply doesn't mean a thing that Bill Clinton has high praise for the Qur'an. He's still wrong.

"I actually find his comments amusing, not offensive. They sound like the braying of someone who is rather resentful and un-objective, I would like to be able to sit down and have an informed debate about the Koran with him."

I'd be happy to debate you also, Mr. Masroor!

He said Faulks' statement runs the risk of stirring religious hatred against Muslims.

"Attacks on Islam are nothing new, but the danger is this will have a "drip, drip" effect.

"People don't seem to understand the consequences of saying things like this could be quite severe. History tells us it can encourage hatred."

"People don't seem to understand the consequences of saying things like this could be quite severe." In other words, shut up or we'll kill you. A not-so-subtle threat of violence, or at the very least a complete distancing from responsibility of the Muslim community to behave rationally and not fly into another bout of murderous rage over fair criticism of their "perfect book".

Inayat Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Britain, said Faulks' view of the Koran was "blinkered".

"The Prophet Muhammad has had many detractors both during his own time and later on who described him as a 'madman' or 'possessed by an evil spirit' and so forth in an effort to drown out his beautiful message," he added.

"Sebastian Faulks should perhaps draw a lesson from the fact that those detractors are all now long forgotten, whereas the Prophet is remembered with love and admiration."

Of course, Bungy. And mandating the death penalty for anyone who insults the Prophet wouldn't have anything to do with it, right?

In any case, what will be most interesting to see going forward is not just how the Muslim community reacts to Faulks' statements, but also whether Faulks himself will now stick up for his views and for freedom of speech, or whether he will capitulate in an apologetic, cringing display of dhimmitude. If he's undecided, I hope he consults his fellow novelist Salman Rushdie for advice.

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