For Amis, it isn't just Sunday that's threatened. For quite a time I have felt that Islamism was trying to poison the world. So never mind messianic fundamentalists in charge of the most powerful army in world history, never mind greenhouse gases, global corporate capitalism and Simon Cowell, the problem is isolated, violent resistance to Western hegemony in far off lands (with oil). He says the virulence of the poison made him abandon a satirical novel (so it does have its plusses!).
Islam [...] is a total system, and like all such it is eerily amenable to satire. But with Islamism, with total malignancy, with total terror and total boredom, irony, even militant irony (which is what satire is), merely shrivels and dies.He still managed to write about the last days of Muhammed Atta, which is sullenly, despairingly satirical. Failure is always good for fiction.
Amis compares what has happened in the world with what might:
On our side, extraordinary rendition, coercive psychological procedures, enhanced interrogation techniques, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Mahmudiya, two wars, and tens of thousands of dead bodies. All this should of course be soberly compared to the feats of the opposed ideology, an ideology which, in its most millennial form, conjures up the image of an abattoir within a madhouse. I will spell this out, because it has not been broadly assimilated. The most extreme Islamists want to kill everyone on earth except the most extreme Islamists; but every jihadi sees the need for eliminating all non-Muslims, either by conversion or by execution.So, on our side the reality of invasion and occupation, on their side the fantasy world of a few. Which do you think worries him? The answer suggests the feats of Islamic ideology are not the only ones that haven't been "broadly assimilated".
Later on, Amis mentions the derangement of Mao to show how institutionalised irrationalism can take over a country. A figure of 70 million Chinese dead is used. No doubt this will become a mantra like so many other figures circulating among empire loyalists. But there's no mention anywhere in the 12,000 words of the very long history of the ideology of capitalism and the number of dead it has caused and is still causing. 70 million would be a conservative estimate, for the post-war period at least. Who's counting? Maybe it doesn't count because it's a coldly rational ideology.
As you plough though Amis' essay, it's worth bearing in mind Jason Burke's (mercifully) shorter piece on Islamism in the same edition of Guardian Books.
The question now, five years after the atrocious day of the attacks, is has al-Zawahiri ["the poster boy of al-Qaeda"] succeeded? It is tempting to point to the bombs in London and elsewhere, to the hideous mess in Iraq, to recent victories of Islamists, to the violent and polarised rhetoric and answer yes. But though a growing number may be answering the call of al-Zawahiri and others, the total remains minimal and the great uprising of the Muslim masses that he hoped to spark has not occurred. His most recent interventions have had a defensive, almost peevish and frustrated air. Yet he and bin Laden are still in Afghanistan - or just over the border in Pakistan - apparently easily evading the clumsy attempts to catch or kill them.(Why on earth would the enemy not want to catch them? Gosh, that's a tough one). If Burke is correct, where does this leave Amis' fetishistic focus on Islam and "horrorism"? Well, the caricature of reality that constitutes his fiction gives a good indication.
UPDATE: Ellis Sharp has some intriguing links about Amis, Updike and research into Islam.
And here's proof, if proof be need be, that Richard Seymour is Amis's and Hitchen's polemical equal.
Amis's irrational attachment to a racist state in the Levant is only a logical corrolary of the passionate intensity with which he embraces the capitalist Herrenvolk. Its crimes must be externalised.