8 DECEMBER 1979, Page 11

Catching up on Islam

Henry Fairlie

Washington .YVhat America needs to distract it just now Is to discover its very own upper-class, homosexual, nimble-footed and arty traitor 11,1 the heart of the Museum of Modern Art. Sat the bother with American traitors is they are seldom at all prepossessing, and no (3 he who is anyone ever seems to have gone . L° school with them. Without the advantage of such distractions in a crisis, the America_ ns are inclined to give themselves up to thinking: and the longer that the hostages are immured in Teheran, the more they tbake to this dangerous habit as if to the _ottle. This might not matter so much if, the i "'tiger that they have to think, they did not think more and more of their own failings: if they did not persuade themselves, for ev:litittl.:4e, that they could anticipate every I do not deny that it can be unnerving to ake every morning to find that overnight a It/Loh of luzzy-wuzzies', as Randolph Churchill would have called them. have besieged /et another of one's embassies in some Moslem country from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Thailand. But with the news of each incident, one can watch the Americans begin to think: of course it is all their fault; they should have known more about Islam. At this point three traits of the American character combine: the belief that everything that happens in the world has a 'I wont to go somewhere they don't have Christmas.'