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August 14, 2005 - It is a War on Islam

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This is a war on Islam?  Who says that?


The Iconoclast

Salman Rushdie discusses free speech, fundamentalism, America's place in the world, and his new essay collection

Reason Online, August/September 2005


In an interview with Salman Rushdie (by Shikha Dalmia) we are told Bush is being a little foolish.  Rushdie thinks the war is just fine, but we should stop insisting it's not about Islam.  He says political correctness and cultural relativism are fine and dandy, but not relevant here.  "You can respect those reasons, but there is a problem of truth."  The truth is that "there is an existing Islam which is not at all likeable."




Rushdie's literary iconoclasm derives not merely from the demands of his subject matter but from a deep personal instinct: his hatred of all orthodoxies, especially religious ones. Although he grew up in a Muslim household, he rejected his faith at a young age and still remains a resolute unbeliever. While Rushdie's literary iconoclasm has earned him a place in the pantheon of the world's great contemporary writers, his religious iconoclasm has not produced such happy results. His 1988 book The Satanic Verses included a parody of Islam that incensed Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who charged Rushdie with apostasy and issued a fatwa calling for his death.


For years the fatwa forced Rushdie into hiding in London. It cost him his marriage and isolated him from his young son. The book was banned in India and he was barred from his homeland. Desperate to resume normal life, Rushdie apologized to Muslims and even formally converted to Islam, a move that he later repudiated.


Well, the man has issues.


Note this:


Reason: The fatwa was in some ways a precursor to September 11. It was the clearest indication of the threat Islamic fundamentalism posed to freedom, pluralism, secularism, and everything we love about the West. You called on Western leaders at that time to unite to defeat the forces of tyranny and terrorism, the “witch-burners” as you called them, pointing out that this was not about religion but about domination and control. Did the West respond?


Rushdie: Pretty slowly. I think eventually it did. One of the things that was interesting was that on both sides of that argument there were people who wanted to describe this as an exceptional event. People who were on my side wished to say that this was an exceptionally horrible attack on a writer and therefore required exceptional resources to defend it. People who were not on my side said that I had done something so exceptionally horrible that the rules of free speech didn’t apply. But on both sides of the argument, there was a desire not to make it typical of anything. It didn’t prove that Islam was against free speech. It was just against this horrible abuse of it. It didn’t prove that there was a large problem of this sort. It just proved that a particularly insane dying religious leader had made a particularly insane fanatical threat.


And when I tried to say that this is not just me, that it is happening in a lot of places to a lot of writers and you need to look at that larger phenomenon, it was often seen as special pleading. This was seen as me trying to attach my case to others to justify myself. It was very difficult to get anyone to see that there was a growing phenomenon that needed to be taken seriously: the attempt to control thought.


This is at the front line of Islamic radicalism. There are all kinds of things that come behind it. You know what [Iranian sociologist] Ali Shariati called the “revolt against history.” That’s the project of tyranny and unreason which wishes to freeze a certain view of Islamic culture in time and silence the progressive voices in the Muslim world calling for a free and prosperous future.


Bush said it was not about Islam -


It was said to minimize the backlash against Muslims. But just in terms of actual fact, it is absurd. It is not about football.


The fact that it is about a particular idea of Islam that many Muslims would reject does not mean it is not about Islam. The Christian Coalition is still about Christianity, even if it’s an idea of Christianity that many Christians might not go along with.


Wahhabi Islam is becoming very powerful these days. To say that it is not about Islam is to not take the world as it really is.


Of course, there is nothing intrinsic linking any religion with any act of violence. The crusades don’t prove that Christianity was violent. The Inquisition doesn’t prove that Christianity tortures people. But that Christianity did torture people. This Islam did carry out this attack.


You have to say, “Not everybody is like this, but this is a part of what there is.” This is the problem with the truth. Truth is never one-dimensional. It is contradictory sometimes. But politics wants clarity.


… What it [Wahhabi Islam] has is an extra piece that believes that religion can be the foundation for a state. It’s a question of removing that piece rather than adding something. There have been various moments in the history of Pakistan when attempts to Islamize the country were resisted strongly by both generals and civilian governments. It’s not inevitable that a country full of Muslims will seek to Islamize its structures. But I do think there is a need for a widespread realization among Muslims that you cannot build a state based on religion. Pakistan is proof of that. Here was a state that was built on religion, but a quarter of a century after it was founded it fell apart, because the glue is not strong enough.


The whole thing is worth a read.  There is a long discussion of that "extra piece" – the idea religion can be the foundation for a state.  Our revolution and the one in France, back in the eighteenth century, took out that piece.  Much of America is trying to put it back in.  The French are going the other way. 


Recall that in the opinions of the Supreme Court justices regarding the public display of the Ten Commandments, Justice Scalia did say our government should display those commandments, as they are "a symbol of the fact that government derives its authority from God."  He says it is "a fact."  What about all that business in the eighteenth century about the authority of the government being derived from the consent of the governed?  Hogwash.  Scalia knows this is in our Declaration of Independence: "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed."  He doesn't like it one bit.  Wahhabi Islam could do no better than this.  And most folks are with him now.


Anyway, for an in-depth analysis of the branchs of Islam and this whole business, you could read this from the Toronto Star, July 22 -


The struggle for Islam's soul

While most Muslims abhor violence, some terrorists are a product of a specific mindset with deep roots in Islamic history. If Muslims everywhere refuse to confront this, we will all be prey to more terror, writes Ziauddin Sardar


Or you could read this.


Salman Rushdie "The Satanic Verses"
The editor's autographed copy ...


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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