It lets murderers start and be part of the conversation

If you want to see people saying good, intelligent, reasonable things, you can do worse than check out Salman Rushdie’s Twitter. He’s RTd several such things.

Joel Gordon @JoelGord13 hours ago
Do Charle Hebdo opponents at PEN realize that boycotting their award normalizes murder as opposition to speech?

@JoelGord It lets murderers start and be part of the conversation. This is why none of their analogies to American racists, etc. works.

There’s Azar Nafisi:

Azar Nafisi ‏@azarnafisi
.@PENamerican @SalmanRushdie PEN award to CH is recognition of the writers’ &artists’ rights to “disturb the peace,”regardless of the price

.@SalmanRushdie @PENamerican Satanic Verses didn’t insult true Muslims, it offended their oppressors who treated their own authors same way

Also of interest is a Storify by Dylan Horrocks. He was working in a bookshop in 1989, and he remembers what the fuss over The Satanic Verses was like. He remembers people on the left being full of agonized doubts. Should the paperback come out?

Was it an unnecessary provocation? Shouldn’t we be trying to heal the wounds caused by the book & fatwa? Some argued we should respect the views of Muslims offended by the book, as a marginalised minority who had suffered under colonialism, Western invasion & war, racism & cultural imperialism. Above all, a slow subtle undermining of Rushdie’s credibility: he’s over-rated, it’s a lousy book, he’s not a proper Indian, he’s culturally colonised, arrogant, disrespectful, deliberately offensive, racist. As a young leftist writer & cartoonist, I found it all very confusing & disturbing. People were persuasive. I remember vividly 2 things: 1. The fear of being on the wrong side & confusion about which side that was. 2. The pervasive sense of Satanic Verses as something tainted, toxic, dirty. When the pbk came out at last I bought one & remember keeping it hidden on the way home, like something illicit, pornographic. The Charlie Hebdo murders has brought back these vivid memories because the reaction has been SO similar. I see young well-meaning leftists having the same doubts & fears & confusions, for exactly the same reasons. And the same ongoing murmur of denegration, dismissal, accusation & shaming. So no, @tejucole, don’t tell me the @SalmanRushdie Affair was completely different. Because I was there & it was very much the same.

I was there too, albeit not working in a bookshop. But I was there in the sense that I paid close attention. But I didn’t have those doubts. Why not? I think because even then I was far too passionately unwilling to be told what to do by god-huggers to have doubts of that kind. People blaming Rushdie for the fatwa seemed grotesque and disgusting to me even then. People blaming Charlie Hebdo for their own murders seems grotesque and disgusting to me right now.


  1. johnthedrunkard says

    I was there too, but I remember more of the American Far Right jumping in to condemn Rushdie. Back then Islamists were in bed with Republicans.

  2. veil_of_ignorance says

    The conversation below the Azar Nafisi tweet is representative for the shallowness of the whole debate.

  3. iknklast says

    I remember the Satanic Verses debate, too. I could never understand why someone would think that threatening to kill someone gave you an appropriate voice in the debate. I never had a sense of which side was which in that debate; I had so many problems of my own at the time that I wasn’t sorting out what the view was on the right or the left. So it hit me by surprise when the left responded in that way to the Danish cartoons. How, I wondered, could anyone blame the cartoonists? Taking offense is one thing; murder is another. I see a lot of cartoons that demonize atheists, or liberals (or environmental scientists), and I take offense at some of the misrepresentations. I have never even thought of killing someone over it. And, yes, in many cases they are striking at things that are deep in the core of my identity, so deep I can’t imagine being something else. The “identity” excuse is just that – an excuse, and a lame one at that.

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