I finally digested yesterday evening Martin Amis' lengthy essay on Islamic fundamentalism that appeared in the Observer on Sunday. A friend of mine who, unlike me, is a lifelong fan of Amis' fiction, decried his recently-found ambition to impose himself as a world-historical commentator. I, however have found his non-fiction to be always far more interesting, and readable than his novels, and 'The Age of Horrorism', despite its overweening self-importance is a good read.
Amis' main concern is the way in which Islamic fundamentalism has become not only the most vocal form of Islam, but probably the only vocal form. He has probably been listening to his old buddy Christopher Hitchens go on about this for years now, without really been that interested (in an interview once, Amis claimed that Hitchens used to sell the Daily Worker at Oxford, when it was the Socialist Worker, quite a clear distinction for the politically-minded). Amis bungles though in viewing Palestinian suicide bombers as a purely Islamist phenomenon. It is true that Islamic fundamentalist groups have nurtured suicide bombings and encouraged them among the Palestinian youth, but the attacks are born more of a historical desperation that was already having grisly effects long before Hamas or Islamic Jihad got a foothold in Palestine.
Amis has a clear distaste for Bush and the neocons and he accepts that the folly of the Iraq war has only inflamed the international Islamist jihad but his conclusion, a blasé dismissal of all religion, stating that
the time has come for a measure of impatience in our dealings with those who would take an innocent personal pronoun, which was just minding its own business, and exalt it with a capital letter,
emphasises how clueless, and ill-equipped he is to analyse the phenomenon of religious belief, and its dogged endurance outside Europe and North America. I sympathise with his agnostic/atheistic views but religion is not going to go away, however impatient we might be with it, and many of us are already, and rightly so. There is the lingering impression that Amis was trying to impress Hitchens and his friends here. I doubt they will be by Amis' foray into the world of geopolitics.
What is interesting too about the article is that Amis reveals much of the plot of a novella he abandoned writing, for reasons that he never fully explains. The opportunity is ripe for somebody to steal his idea and publish it themselves in a Borgesian faux-text. Amis, being a fan of the great Argentinian, might even appreciate that...