Attack on Salman Rushdie
No ifs, no buts, but what has been done to Salman Rushdie, this murderous attack, is utterly despicable and condemnable. It brings disrepute to Islam, a religion of peace and understanding and forgiveness, like other religions. It gives comfort to people who hate Islam: here, this is what this barbarous religion is, full of medieval hatred. We know of course that no religion is free of this poison. Not Christianity, not Hinduism, not Buddhism.
Salman Rushdie meant something important to all of us at one time. Acutely aware of imperialism, he wrote back to the West. You think we have no history? I will show you our history and how you have mangled it, brutalized it. You think we have no language, I will use the language you came with, to make it my own, and write against you. You think I have no system of time and rationality? I treat you, he said, to the idiocy of that.
So novel after novel, he played with the Western narratives of the world, exposing them for fatuity, untruths, and finding our own voices.
Then, something changed. It wasn't just the dreadful fatwa. There was now a new Salman Rushdie, fawning at Margaret Thatcher. In Joseph Anton, it made me cringe when he said the hair on his arms stood up when Margaret Thatcher stroked his arms.
He became a weapon in imperialism's wars all over the Muslim world.
Priyamvada Gopal had an excellent essay some years back, From Salman Rushdie to Sir Salman, about his betrayal of his anti-imperial self. How could he forgive himself?
He didn't have to think about that since becoming an international face of Western Islamophobia. And he loved being a celebrity.
Just as a matter of fact, when The Satanic Verses was published in 1988, the UK did have laws against blasphemy. Just six months earlier, a gay magazine that figured Jesus Christ as gay had been banned. But seizing an anti-Iran moment, Margaret Thatcher revoked the law.
Charlie Hebdo became possible. You could spit in my face in the name of freedom of speech…
No Third Worldist will forget 1953. The first elections in Iran threw up Mossaghdeh, democratically elected. He nationalized Iran's oil industry, owned by the British.
The UK and USA organized a coup, setting up a stooge king.
This is a pattern. Nkrumah. Allende.
Salman Rushdie brought us this history in his remarkable novels. The old Salman Rushdie. The new Rushdie is an unbelievably nasty man, nasty to his wives, pitifully stingy despite his wealth.
But I have been reading again Pankaj Mishra's rewarding readings of Rushdie over the years. They are worth reading, so acute, so prescient.
Salman Rushdie is finally a victim of ancient atavistic hatreds he has let loose, a character in a magnificent novel, essentially heartless, a man who sold himself to imperialism's maw.