The novelist and Hitch-chum Martin Amis has been catching a lot of flak for Steyn-like utterances about  Muslims. The line between perfectly reasonable - and important - criticism of Islamism and even Islam, and sweeping statements about all Muslims is a vital one to maintain, it seems to me. The reason is that the former criticisms are so important they need to be shielded from legitimate accusations of bigotry. Amis seems to me to have teetered very close to the line, if not tripped over it. Here's the relevant passage that has provoked some harrumphing from the left:

""There's a definite urge - don't you have it? - to say, 'The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order. What sort of suffering? Not let them travel. Deportation - further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they're from the Middle East or from Pakistan ... Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.'"

On its face, you can see the logic, especially with the opening qualification. Being able to say some things candidly - about Islam's treatment of women, Jews and gays, about the backwardness of much of Muslim Middle East, about the anti-intellectual bullying of Islamist thought - is vital. But these important critiques will get overwhelmed by bigotry if we are not extremely careful. And musing about mass punishment of all Muslims is Malkinian. Ronan Bennett protests here. Kamila Shamsie seconds here. Pickled Politics gets into a, er, pickle here. Memo to the pickles: try not to criticize bigots by calling other people "inbreds", ok?

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