Fay Weldon hits back at the Islamically Correct

It's not racist to stand against bigotry, the novelist tells Graham Ball

Fay Weldon, one of Britain's most powerful woman writers, is furious. Last week the Runnymede Trust, the liberal think-tank on race relations and cultural diversity, claimed that by standing up for her friend Salman Rushdie Ms Weldon was guilty of promoting anti- Islamic attitudes.

In a 24-page pamphlet published by the Trust, she was named among a group of authors and journalists alleged to be guilty of the new politically correct offence of "Islamophobia".

Yesterday, speaking to the Independent on Sunday, the feminist author, who says she was brought up to be a humanist, struck back at those accusing her of religious intolerance.

"If being an Islamophobe means you express anger when your good friend and colleague is sentenced to death, then I suppose I must qualify," said Ms Weldon, celebrated for The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and more than 20 other books, and currently working on a Channel Four screenplay about famous feminists called Wicked Women.

In 1989, soon after the Ayatollah Khomeni declared a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, Fay Weldon published Sacred Cows, a pamphlet critical of the fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran.

The authors of the pamphlet say that her writing helped to demonise Islam and they quote the following passage: "[The Koran is] food for no thought. It is not a poem on which society can be safely or sensibly based. It gives weapons and strength to the thought police."

The Runnymede Trust argues that new laws are needed to prevent the spread of Islamophobia. Other writers accused of helping spread the new form of "racism" include journalists Bernard Levin and Charles Moore and TV chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk.

"The piece they quote seems to be a perfectly valid comment to make about either the Bible or the Koran. I feel outraged and besmirched that these peaceful and apt words have been used in this way," Ms Weldon said.

"The point I was making is that I find it extraordinary that any group of people in the late 20th century should be sticking to the exact word of the Bible or Koran, books that take the words of men who claim to have spoken to God.

"To adopt the attitudes of this report will have the effect of stifling reasonable comments as well as turbulent views. It is just too easy. For example, I dislike the Christians who bomb abortion clinics in America and shoot doctors, but that does not make me a Christophobe."

The booklet, which is endorsed by leading academic and religious figures including The Rt Revd Richard Chartres, former Bishop of London, Rabbi Julia Neuberger and Ian Har- greaves, editor of the New Statesman, makes only one passing reference to the death threat hanging over the British novelist Salman Rushdie.

"How can they not address the fact that they have just put up the price on Salman's head and that the bounty is now open to anyone in the world?" Fay Weldon said.

"How can anyone not feel extremely angry at this? I hope that all my fellow British writers will share the same emotion."

She feels that the booklet will do more harm than good and has the potential of playing into the hands of racists.

"I believe the Runnymede Trust are complete innocents in all this. I think they have been bamboozled by the authors of this extraordinary little work. It is extremely loosely written and seems to set out to muddy the distinction between the terms Muslim and Islam.

"Are they seriously arguing that Islamophobia is the same as racism? Officially Britain is a Christian country but we do not have a Christian culture - who goes to church these days? I say hooray for Muslims and down with Islam. The mullahs have done everyone a great disservice," she said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Metail Ltd: Business Development Manager for Asia Pacific

£35,000 - £40,000 based on experience : Metail Ltd: As a Business Development ...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Owner

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product ...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - £17,000 Basic, OTE Uncapped

£17000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company are looking for a S...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line Technical Analyst

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 1st / 2nd Line Technical Anal...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate