The Salman Rushdie Situation

Throughout my career, I have toured a number of intellectuals who have very vocal critics, like Chelsea Manning, Douglas Murray, Richard Dawkins, and Julian Assange (to name just a few). Most recently we finished our tour with moral philosopher Peter Singer, whose views have garnered much controversy, especially among disability advocates.

These are people who promote ideas that some consider inflammatory and dangerous, but that's precisely why they need to be heard. Without ideas aired in public, how can we choose to agree or disagree? 

We believe that free speech is vital to a productive, equal and innovative society, and to have it shut down with violence is reprehensible.

The right to freedom of expression has been recognised as a human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law by the United Nations, and its a hallmark of accepting and tolerant nations.

While it's commonplace these days to hear people say "free speech should not be without consequence", I think the only consequences should be discourse and debate.

For a deep dive into Islam, I encourage you to watch my film Islam and the Future of Tolerance. It's streaming on Amazon Prime.

I encourage you all to stand in solidarity with Salman Rushdie and purchase a copy of his books, read them with pride and stand shoulder to shoulder with the brave and courageous.

Think Inc. promotes diversity of opinions and thought and welcomes people of all faiths and religions, but denounces extremism in any form, including religious extremism.

As Rushdie said back in 2005,

“The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible,”

How right he was then, now, and always.

Feel free to share your thoughts and views with me as we, together, navigate these challenging times.

With love and solidarity,
Suzi

Recap

Who is Salman?

Salman Rushdie is the author of thirteen novels including the 1981 Booker Prize winning Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses and The Golden House.

A Fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature, Salman has received numerous honours including:

  • The Whitbread Prize for Best Novel (twice),
  • The Writers’ Guild Award, and
  • The James Tait Black Prize.

He holds honorary doctorates and fellowships at six European and six American universities, is an Honorary Professor in the Humanities at M.I.T, and University Distinguished Professor at Emory University.

His books have been translated into over forty languages.

Why the hate?

Rushdie has faced death threats for more than three decades, since the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him in 1989 and called for his death over purported blasphemy in his novel The Satanic Verses, which satirized Islamic histories and mythologies with magical realism.

The intellectual origins of The Satanic Verses can be traced to Rushdie’s undergraduate coursework in Cambridge when he studied a disputed set of verses spoken by the Prophet Muhammad that early Islamic scholars argued about (and later scholars rejected).

From the contested text and its subtext, Rushdie took away a key theme:

“The incident of the Satanic verses is essentially a case of prophetic testimony inspired by Satan, then corrected by God — a fascinating exchange between what is profane and what is divine, between the politically expedient and the religiously authentic,”
Laila Lalami

Also, among other elements of the book religious zealots took issue with, when attention was drawn to the title, "Muslims found [it] incredibly sacrilegious", and took it to imply that the book's author claimed that verses of the Qur'an were "the work of the Devil."

While some focussed on the perceived blasphemy, many others believed the novel was fundamentally about displaced peoples and displaced geographies in the time of Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing British government.

“It’s very much a book about the way in which migrant communities — largely South Asian, but he is also interested in Afro-Caribbeans and others — constitute themselves as a community… [It's about] the way in which they confront issues to do with identity, to do with history, to do with the past, to do with the future, and the way in which, particularly in Thatcherite Britain, they are treated as second-class citizens.”
Homi Bhabha

Several other writers and translators with links to Rushdie have been attacked or killed over the years. To name a few:

  • Ettore Capriolo, an English literature expert who had translated The Satanic Verses into Italian, was stabbed multiple times on July 4, 1991.
  • Hitoshi Igarashi, a 44-year-old Japanese scholar, was found stabbed to death at his office on July 12, 1991.
  • William Nygaard, who had put out a Norwegian translation of Rushdie's novel, was shot three times outside his home on Oct. 11, 1993.

Response to the attack

In the days since the attack, tremendous support has flowed in for Rushdie, praising his work and wishing him a speedy recovery.

Many publications have thrown up opinion pieces regarding Rushdie as an icon of freedom of speech and expression, and a reminder that those human rights must be regarded as paramount.

An Iranian government official has denied Tehran was involved in the assault, saying:

“We, in the incident of the attack on Salman Rushdie in the US, do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusations except him and his supporters… Nobody has [the] right to accuse Iran in this regard."
Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman of Iran's Foreign Ministry

Iranian media and newspapers have hailed the attack and praised the assailant in recent days, with ultraconservative Keyhan writing,

“Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and depraved” Rushdie.

The man accused in the stabbing attack on Rushdie has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a "pre-planned" crime.

The attack on Rushdie is a striking reminder that fiction — along with art, poetry, and comics — can be dangerous tools that hold real power and risks.

Learn More

Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam

How do you move away from virtue signalling “I am not Islamophobic” to being virtuous, evangelising the doctrine of “equal rights for all”? Yasmine Mohammed has a guide for you.

Watch for free.

Islam and the Future of Tolerance

An atheist philosopher clashes with a former Islamist turned reformed Muslim over one of the most controversial topics of our time. They take this conversation public in hopes of changing the global conversation.

Rent or stream.

Speaking Out

Voices to follow

We Ignored Salman Rushdie's Warning

by Bari Weiss

Read the article.

Deadly Consequences: Salman Rushdie and Free Expression in the West

by Faisal Saeed Al Mutar

Read the article.

Where Salman Rushdie defied those who would silence him, today too many fear causing offence

by Kenan Malik

Read the article.

Salman Rushdieand the Cult of Offence

by Graeme Wood

Read the article.

To Support Salman Rushdie, Just Read Him

by Randy Boyagoda

Read the article.

Rushdie’s Moral Heroism

by The Quillette Editorial Board

Read the article.