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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future