The XX Factor

Martin Amis Sees Islam as a School for Wayward Girls

Martin Amis’ sexism is so constant and absurd that it’s almost not worth cataloging, but his latest insult to womankind rehashes two of his more spectacular claims: that sexual freedom is dangerous for women, and that Islam is the solution. This week the British novelist told Abu Dhabi’s The National that he thinks his sister, Sally Amis, who struggled with alcoholism and died in 2000, could have survived if she had converted to Islam instead of Catholicism:

“She might still be alive because of … the austerity, the demands it makes on you. … She was such an uncontrollable girl … she needed a really tight structure, an ésprit de corps of shared belief. … Islam in its way gives you that, a collectivity that she could have been a part of, which incidentally forbade alcohol and premarital sex.”

It’s true that cohesion and self-control are not hallmarks of the Catholic Church at the moment. Maybe the abstemious community Islam can offer would provide stability to a depressed alcoholic. But I doubt filial concern inspired Amis’ speculation.

Ever since his 2006 pronouncement that “the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order,” Amis has not been a favorite in the Islamic world. Now he’s trying to smooth things over. How? By lauding the restrictions Islam places on women, especially on women’s sexuality. In the process he publicizes his deceased sister’s troubled personal life-again. Last year in front of an audience of book festival attendees, he blamed the sexual revolution for his sister’s “pathological promiscuity ” and alleged that Sally Amis “would have needed the Taliban to protect her” from the consequences of her own sexual freedom.

His statements in The National this week are just a continuation of this attempt to make amends with Muslims at the expense of women. In jointly praising Islam’s prohibitions against alcohol and premarital sex, Amis suggests that his “uncontrollable” sister’s sexual behavior was as destructive as her alcoholism. Maybe it was. But Amis seems to think that Western female sexuality as a whole deserves controlled-substance status, which he would like nothing better than to see Muslims police. (I mean, it’s not like you can depend on Catholics to put a disobedient woman in her place … ) As for ingratiating himself with Muslims, Amis is essentially congratulating Islam on being the ultimate school for wayward girls. Which is almost as condescending as the remark that got him in trouble in the first place.