Salman Rushdie on Islam: ‘We have learned the wrong lessons’

Salman Rushdie believes that if The Satanic Verses had been published today, the members of the literary elite who rounded on Charlie Hebdo in the wake of the French satirical magazine winning a PEN prize for courage would not have defended him.

In an interview with the French magazine L’Express, the novelist said that “it seems we have learned the wrong lessons” from the experience of The Satanic Verses, which saw a fatwa issued against him by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, sending him into hiding. “Instead of realising that we need to oppose these attacks on freedom of expression, we thought that we need to placate them with compromise and renunciation,” he said.

…. The novelist told the French magazine that he believes “we are living in the darkest time I have ever known”, with the rise of Islamic State of “colossal importance for the future of the world”. He argued that the taboo surrounding “supposed ‘Islamophobia’” must be brought to an end.

“Why can’t we debate Islam?” he said. “It is possible to respect individuals, to protect them from intolerance, while being sceptical about their ideas, even criticising them ferociously.” [518 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 117 votes] It’s true. In the current intellectual climate Rushdie would have been taken to task for insulting Islam.

He should be praised for his honesty.

[2ND 87] Islam in the West hides behind it’s minority status when criticised, while quite bizarrely, also taking the very opposite tack by accusing its critics of being against one and a half billion Muslims worldwide, aided and abetted,of course, by useful idiots in the Western liberal establishment.

[3RD 80] …. The impression I’ve got is that Hebdo happily attacked EVERYBODY – including the Pope and the French Elite. That certain Muslims regarded their particular ideology as above such treatment shows the degree to which they were rejecting, violently, the culture of those among whom they lived. Such behaviour is unacceptable – as acceptance implies a surrender of your own culture.

[4TH 69 ] Yes we have chosen appeasement. I knew this a few years back when Jack Straw publically condemned the original Mohammed cartoons. Our mistake is to believe that religion by default occupies some ethereal plane separate from politics, perhaps understandable given our cultural memory and experience of Protestantism which has dominated the British Isles, and which is on the face of it is highly private and individualising, ostensively apolitical (but probably not immanantly). By appeasing we expect the radicals to go back in a box and Islam to default to its supposed apolitical essence.

[5TH 56] …. most muslims are afflicted by a belligerent sense of victimhood than actual victimhood. What is islamophobia? It is a word that exists only to cut down criticism of a particular religion. It is telling that no similar word exists to protect other religions despite much harsher denunciation of these religions. There is condemnation of some very nasty ideas in conservative islam – ideas that cause real harm and suffering – what the hell is wrong with that?

[6TH 52] Good piece. The moral cowardice displayed by many commentators and politicians when Rushdie was under attack has fed into the current situation. How many of the kids who’ve run off to Syria have parents who were burning copies of The Satanic Verses?

[7TH 50] Blasphemy laws are a tacit admission by the religious and the liberals they use as human shields from debate, that there is precious little of value held within. Otherwise there would be no fear of it not being able to withstand scrutiny.

[8TH 48] When thousands and thousands marched through streets of cities in Britain calling for Salman to be murdered, we had a problem. The same ideology, the same extremism, manifests today in men and boys who go to join ISIS. We were silent then, we held our tongues, and we are where we are now because of it.

[9TH 46] Salman, as always, is spot on.

He argued that the taboo surrounding “supposed ‘Islamophobia’” must be brought to an end. “Why can’t we debate Islam?” he said. “It is possible to respect individuals, to protect them from intolerance, while being sceptical about their ideas, even criticising them ferociously.”

Now, more than ever, this is needed. The proxy blasphemy codes, the fear, the self-censoring, the blame shifting, these are the fruits of relativism and special religious pleading. In the UK, America and Europe, when we defend dissidents and critics of Islam, we defend them in Islamic countries too. If we can be silenced in liberal secular democracies because of hustled blasphemy taboos and codes, then liberal secularism is dead. The new inquisition will have prevailed.

That is why we will never be silenced, never be quietened.

[10TH 35] There are some seriously mixed up views in Western European polite society when it comes to Islam. On the one hand many are terrified of appearing to be racist or of unfairly making scapegoats of a minority (perhaps fearful of holocaust type echoes) while at the same time they profess to stand for everything the fundamentalists despise. If a sizable portion of a certain religion’s followers have not managed to integrate with secular society and culturally evolve to the point that they can allow their religion to be mocked then they clearly don’t believe in the ideas on which Western secular societies are based on. That is the fault of the religious followers NOT of authors or satirists that mock and/or challenge the religion. [The Guardian] Read more

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