Amis condemns Muslim extremists as 'miserable bastards'

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The Independent Culture

Martin Amis has launched an attack on "miserable bastards" in the British Muslim community, accusing them of trying to destroy multicultural society by failing to "fit in" with other faiths.

Young men in late adolescence were being targeted and brainwashed by extremists into joining the "death cult" that was behind last year's London bombings, he said.

The comments, to an audience at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, came after Amis, 57, son of the writer Kingsley, was asked to describe his recent return to London, after two and a half years living in Uruguay, where his wife, the writer Isabel Fonseca, has family.

"When I come back to Britain I see a pretty good multicultural society," he said. "The only element that is not fitting in is Islam. Who else isn't fitting in?"

"In this country what's happening is that young men in late adolescence and early manhood have a period of self-hatred and disgust and thoughts of suicide. The idea you can turn this into world history is tremendously powerful."

The allure of a philosophy based on "the rejection of reason and embrace of death" is intense but shortlived, he said. "I think the absolutely critical thing is to see whether it mutates. Death cults do take on a terrible momentum. If individuals believe they can exert an influence on history, then al-Qa'idaism will mutate as we feared.

"To me, Britain looks like a multicultural society that's working, apart from a few of these miserable bastards."

His comments came as Jack Straw was isolated in the Cabinet over the Muslim veil row, with John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, warning that the controversy could inflame community tensions.

Muslim groups have warned that they have received a flood of hate mail since Mr Straw disclosed that he always asks women in his constituency to take off face veils before meeting him. The Commons Leader, who described the veils as a "visible statement of separation", later added that he would prefer that they stopped wearing the garments altogether.

Although Mr Prescott said he did not believe that the subject should become a "no-go area for debate", he made clear he disagreed with his cabinet colleague.

"If a woman wants to wear a veil, why shouldn't she?" he said yesterday. "It's her choice. It's a cultural difference, but it is her choice."

It was also reported yesterday that the Church of England has accused the Government of deliberately favouring Muslims in a drive to encourage interfaith relations. In a confidential document, the Church claimed that the Government's attempts to integrate minority faiths had backfired, leaving Britain "more separated than ever before". Written by Guy Wilkinson, interfaith adviser to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the report ­ which was leaked to The Sunday Telegraph ­ claims the Church has been "sidelined" and "preferential" treatment has been given to Britain's Muslim community.

Amis's comments follow his recent attack on Islamic extremists in an essay for The New Yorker. He has also written a short story about the 9/11 bomber Mohamed Atta. At the weekend, he also admitted having experienced a moment of "sanitary racism" on a recent long-haul flight.

"It was quite unsettling," he said. "I was sitting on an aeroplane with 349 Chinese, and it's really quite disturbing the way it comes round. You see them getting up or going to the toilet and you catch yourself thinking 'there goes another one'."

Asked about his famously verbose prose, Amis also admitted consulting a dictionary "about 20 times a day" and making frequent use of a thesaurus. "I use it as a kind of scansion dictionary," he said. "I'm not just looking for another word for big. It's more for times like when you need a word that means the same thing but has two syllables. Like massive, although maybe you need something that stresses the second syllable. But I'm afraid to say I do indeed use one."