To be fair to Faulks, he probably did not expect his comments to be picked up by controversy-hungry hacks at the Mail and The Express, always keen to write self-fulfilling predictions about Muslim anger. Then again, what has he got to apologise for?
Here’s what he said about the Koran on Sunday:
It’s a depressing book. It really is. It’s just the rantings of a schizophrenic. It’s very one-dimensional, and people talk about the beauty of the Arabic and so on, but the English translation I read was, from a literary point of view, very disappointing.
There is also the barrenness of the message. I mean, there are some bits about diet, you know, the equivalent of the Old Testament, which is also crazy. If you look again at those books of the law, Leviticus or Deuteronomy, there’s a lot about who you are allowed to sleep with, and if a man had lost his testicles he wouldn’t enter into the presence of God, that is just terrible. But the great thing about the Old Testament is that it does have these incredible stories. Of the 100 greatest stories ever told, 99 are probably in the Old Testament and the other is in Homer.
With the Koran there are no stories. And it has no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life. It says ‘the Jews and the Christians were along the right tracks, but actually, they were wrong and I’m right, and if you don’t believe me, tough — you’ll burn for ever.’ That’s basically the message of the book.
So far, so uncontroversial. Muslims have been kidding themselves about their “holy book” for centuries. A bit of candid criticism can only be a good thing.
But the very next day, in an article which some sarcastic sub-editor entitled “The book I really can’t put down”, Faulks cringes:
While we Judaeo-Christians can take a lot of verbal rough-and-tumble about our human-written scriptures, I know that to Muslims the Koran is different; it is by definition beyond criticism. And if anything I said or was quoted as saying (not always the same thing) offended any Muslim sensibility, I do apologise – and without reservation.
The Telegraph piece entitled “Sebastian Faulks risks Muslim anger after calling the Koran the ‘rantings of a schizophrenic’” has been removed from its website.
Did Faulks cave in to threats, or is he merely offering a pre-emptive apology in advance of them? Either way, this story is pretty appalling.