Salman Rushdie gave a PEN/Pinter Prize Lecture the other day and used the occasion to talk about “jihadi-cool,” the Telegraph reported.
The so-called “jihadi-cool” image romanticises Isil, using rap videos and social networking to recruit followers – posing with AK-47s and bragging about their “five star jihad” in videos showing fighters lounging around in luxury villas as they urged the destruction of the West.
Rushdie defined “jihadi-cool” as “the deformed medievalist language of fanaticism, backed up by modern weaponry”, saying: “It’s hard not to conclude that this hate-filled religious rhetoric, pouring from the mouths of ruthless fanatics into the ears of angry young men, has become the most dangerous new weapon in the world today”.
I think he’s right. I think the element of adventure, excitement, glamor, flash, let’s pretend in terrorism gets too little attention.
He said: “A word I dislike greatly, ‘Islamophobia’, has been coined to discredit those who point at these excesses, by labelling them as bigots. But in the first place, if I don’t like your ideas, it must be acceptable for me to say so, just as it is acceptable for you to say that you don’t like mine. Ideas cannot be ring-fenced just because they claim to have this or that fictional sky god on their side.
“And in the second place, it’s important to remember that most of those who suffer under the yoke of the new Islamic fanaticism are other Muslims…
“It is right to feel phobia towards such matters. As several commentators have said, what is being killed in Iraq is not just human beings, but a whole culture. To feel aversion towards such a force is not bigotry. It is the only possible response to the horror of events.
“I can’t, as a citizen, avoid speaking of the horror of the world in this new age of religious mayhem, and of the language that conjures it up and justifies it, so that young men, including young Britons, led towards acts of extreme bestiality, believe themselves to be fighting a just war.”
The language that conjures it up and justifies it is very important. Language is very important, just as ideas are very important. They aren’t just the froth on the coffee.
Rushdie was speaking as he accepted the PEN Pinter Prize, established by the writers’ charity English PEN in 2009 in memory of the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter.
The prize is awarded annual to a British or British-based writer who “exemplifies the spirit of Harold Pinter through his or her engagement with the times”.
Each year the winner shares the prize with an international writer who has risked their own safety in the name of free speech. Rushdie chose Mazen Darwish, a Syrian journalist and lawyer who is currently in prison.
There are so so many to choose from.