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Bond author Sebastian Faulks moves to head off Islam row

24-Aug-2009 • Literary

Novelist whose new book features student drawn into Islamist terror cell, and who has been quoted attacking the Qur'an, apologises for any offence caused - reports The Guardian.

Sebastian Faulks has moved quickly in an attempt to avert criticism over his comments about the Qur'an, which he was quoted describing as "just the rantings of a schizophrenic" with "no ethical dimension" in an interview with the Sunday Times yesterday.

"While I believe the voice-hearing of many Old Testament prophets and of John the Baptist in the New might well raise psychiatric eyebrows today, it is absurd to suggest that the Prophet, who achieved so much in military and political – quite apart from religious – terms, can have suffered from any acute illness. Only a fully cogent and healthy person could have done what he did," Faulks told the Guardian today. He went on to offer "a simple but unqualified apology to my Muslim friends and readers for anything that has come out sounding crude or intolerant. Happily, there is more to the book than that."

His interview with the Sunday Times also saw him call the Qur'an "a depressing book", which is "one-dimensional", with "no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life". The novelist, who has included the character of a student led astray by an Islamist terrorist cell in his forthcoming book, A Week in December, was also reported to have opined of the Qur'an: "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'."

But today Faulks said that often during an interview the case is overstated "in order to make a point more clearly". "If such an overstatement is taken out of its heavily nuanced context, then pulled out of the printed article and highlighted, it can have a badly distorting effect," he said. "I blame myself more than the reporter – or whichever subeditor thought it was good idea to pull out the more undigested bits and try to make a silly season scandal ... I unreservedly apologise to anyone who does feel offended by comments offered in another context."

Looking to explain his comments further, Faulks said today that while he believes "it is fair to say the New Testament is the most ethically sophisticated of the great scriptures, the proper comparison for the Qur'an is with the Old Testament – against which it holds its own. I accept that the ethics of Islam have been developed by scholars and thinkers over the centuries, and in the course of that time have become the equal of other religions in their sophistication."

Faulks said that after reading the Qur'an and several histories of Islam as part of his research for A Week in December, which is published in September, he "ended with a high regard for Islam, which seems to me more spiritually demanding than Judaism or Christianity". "The nicest characters in A Week in December are in fact Muslims – and their religious devotion is one of the things that defines them," said Faulks.

The author is best known for his first world war novel Birdsong, which has sold more than two million copies. Last year he wrote an authorised sequel to Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, Devil May Care, to mark the centenary of Fleming's birth.

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