The politics of paranoia

From The Guardian:

In an essay last week to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Martin Amis hit out at the virulence of Islamism. Here, writer Pankaj Mishra lambasts Amis’s ‘moral superiority’ and takes issue with the intellectual arrogance of political elites in the West who fail to understand the Muslim world. He argues that an out-of-touch US administration is repeating the fatal errors of the Vietnam War, resulting in a war on terror that is a political, military and intellectual fiasco.

Martin Amis’s essay on Islam and Islamism goes on for more than 10,000 words without describing an individual experience of Muslim societies deeper than Christopher Hitchens’s acquisition of an Osama T-shirt in Peshawar and the Amis family’s failure to enter, after closing time, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

‘The impulse towards rational inquiry,’ Amis asserts, ‘is by now very weak in the rank and file of the Muslim male.’ There are countless other startling claims (according to Amis, the army was on the Islamist side in the Algerian civil war) in his essay, whose pseudo-scholarship and fanatical conviction of moral superiority make it resemble nothing more than one of bin Laden’s desperately literary screeds.

Such a bold and hectic display of prejudice and ignorance invites the dinner-party frivolity of Amis’s genitals-centric analysis (constipation and sexual frustration) of radical Islam. But what forces us to take it seriously is not only that its author is one of our leading novelists, but also that his cliches about non-western peoples (they are all very irrational out there) and strident belief in ‘Western’ rationality are now commonplace in elite liberal-left as well as conservative circles in the government and media.

More here.