Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Bennett doesn't allow topic of article to distract from good Irish republian MOPE


Ronan Bennett was once a convicted IRA terrorist but in his current incarnation he turns out novels of lumpen prose.

Bennett’s wife is the editor of Comment is Free, the Guardian’s Blog, and thus it is in the G2 section of the paper that we are treated to an article, ostensibly about Martin Amis’ wrangles with Islam, which crowbars in a quite remarkable number of allusions to the Irish Catholic (and I use Bennett’s own religious definition) as MOPE.

What is it about the Irish Republican psyche that wants to project their own parochial concerns on every situation of conflict or discord which has ever manifested itself since the dawn of history? Why are they compelled to seek in misery, wherever it occurs, some echo of their own perceived suffering?

Bennett does not make it past his almost unreadably clumsy opening paragraph, before directly conflating the entire religion of Islam with the Irish. Racist supremacism is charged against Amis and the Irish Catholic is of course a perpetual fellow sufferer. Terry Eagleton, the Marxist professor who became involved in a public spat with Amis, is congratulated for being descended from that stock. Presumably we are invited to contemplate this because Amis is simultaneously oppressing the Muslim and his Irish Catholic counterpart.

Most tellingly Bennett takes issue with Amis’ fictional imagining of one of the 9/11 bombers as a cold-blooded killer. Bennett’s implication is the classic terrorist sympathiser’s attempt to invert the role of perpetrator and victim. It is a trait which republicans certainly DO share with murderous terror groups worldwide.

I cannot condone the comments from Amis which caused the initial controversy. It is a deeply illiberal impulse to suggest that discrimination based on religion or indeed on ethnic origin is the only way in which a terror threat can be countered. It is also a manifestly counter-productive point of view.

However it would also be an abdication of responsibility to ignore the rise of Islamism in the UK and elsewhere or to causally quarantine that rise from the verifiable fact that an intolerant brand of Islam is increasingly flourishing and being allowed to flourish. I may not agree with Amis’ conclusions, but I reserve his right to enter that debate and to do so without counter debate including attacks on his father.

I certainly find it rather ironic that someone who in his younger years supported forcing the majority of the population to accept his political opinions through violence, should be so quick to impugn another's liberal credentials or indeed imply fascism.

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