Islamic Fanatics’ War on Freedom of Speech | Salman Rushdie


Islamic fanatics’ war on freedom of speech: Salman  Rushdie

Author Salman Rushdie’s latest book,
Photo: Salman Rushdie talks to students  about his life and writings
Michael Johnson

PARIS — Twenty-three years after an  Iranian fatwa authorized his murder, Salman Rushdie is alive and well  but still on the radar of fanatical Muslims.

The price on his head has reached $3.3 million and the faithful are being  urged again to take up arms. Rushdie is trying to dismiss this latest threat as  a nuisance, not a new fatwa. He may be overly optimistic.

His crime was a book he dared to publish in 1988, “The Satanic Verses,” which  included imaginary scenes of Muhammad’s life. Although the original  fatwa was lifted in 1998, the worst of the would-be killers remained  incensed. A semi-official Iranian group upped its bounty by $500,000 in  September and hopes to re-ignite the old Rushdie affair.

“Joseph Anton” Is Rushdie’s Memoir 

This disturbing development rather spoils the happy ending of Rushdie’s new  book, “Joseph Anton,” a gripping account of his nine years on the run from the  hot-heads. The book concludes as he steps onto a Notting Hill street in London  and hails a taxi – his first free act in Britain since the Ayatollah Khomeini  condemned him to death.

Khomeini wanted more than Rushdie’s blood. “All those involved in its [“The  Satanic Verses”] publication are sentenced to death. I ask all Muslims to  execute them wherever they find them,” the text reads.

Rushdie, never quite losing his cool, quotes a BBC journalist as telling him  early in the affair not to worry too much: “Khomeini sentences the president of  the United States to death every Friday afternoon.”

Protestors against Rushdie, September 2012   AP

The Salman Rushdie story bears retelling, not only for its personal cruelties  but also as a reminder that bloodthirsty, intolerant forces are abroad in the  land and quite willing to kill those who disagree with them.

In an interview last month, a self-effacing Rushdie told the New York  Times he felt he had been caught up in a “world historical event…the  battle against radical Islam, of which this was one skirmish.”

In response to the original death sentence in 1989, a rash of book burnings,  fire-bombings and mass marches broke out in Britain, where he was a naturalized  citizen, and throughout the Islamic world. In Teheran, excited marchers carried  posters of him with his eyes dug out and signs such as “Kill the dog.”

Murders on the margins of the affair were actually carried out or attempted.  His Japanese translator was killed, his Italian translator was stabbed in the  neck but survived and his Norwegian publishing house was bombed. The killers  never got near him, thanks mainly to the efficiency of the British police  spiriting him from house to house at the slightest sign of trouble.

Protestors Took to the Streets Against Rushdie

In London, where I was living during this saga, I found the atmosphere deeply  unsettling for such a peaceful capital. Thousands of bearded fanatics, most of  them Pakistanis and other Middle East immigrants, protested against Rushdie by  marching down Park Lane under police protection, shouting, chanting and shaking  their fists — exercising their right to free expression. The irony of the  situation was lost on them. No one was prosecuted for incitement to  violence.

During his years in hiding, Rushdie tells of how the tables were turned and  he became the villain. A large majority of the British public told pollsters  that they wanted him to apologize for writing the book. And he came under attack  from the best of Britain’s intellectual coterie.

I had forgotten that he was bashed by such luminaries as George Steiner, John  Le Carre, Germaine Greer, Auberon Waugh, Gerald Kaufman, Richard Ingrams,  Geoffrey Howe, Douglas Hurd, and even John Major. To his eternal credit, Rushdie  stood fast on his right to free speech.

Caricature of Salman Rushdie by Michael  Johnson

To this day, he seems perplexed by the craven attitudes around him and the  eagerness of prominent figures to appease the fanatics merely to maintain their  cozy lives. Very few chose to focus on the larger issue at stake, the freedom of  expression that is at the basis of Western values.

Rushdie Credits U.S. Commitment to Freedom

He wrote his latest book in third person, using his police code name as the  protagonist. The officers guarding him agreed to call him “Joseph Anton” from  the Christian names of his favorite writers, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. He  became known to the police as “Joe.” He decided to write this book in the third  person to avoid using the more egotistical “I“ and “me” throughout.

For me, the heart of the book is not the detail of his scuttling from house  to house to confuse the hit squads, fascinating as that is, but the over-arching  issue of freedom to speak and write one’s opinions without fear of getting  stabbed or shot by paid assassins.

He maintains he did nothing wrong. “When did it become irrational to dislike  religion, any religion, and to dislike it vehemently?” Rushdie asks. “When did  reason get re-described as unreason?”

In the past two decades, militants in Europe have been emboldened by the lack  of resistance to their actions. Rushdie has been keeping track. “There were  Islamist attacks on socialists and unionists, cartoonists and journalists,  prostitutes and homosexuals, women in skirts and beardless men, and also,  surreally, on such evils as frozen chickens and samosas,” he writes.

Tracing the rise of violence, he cites extremist ideologies including  Wahhabi, Salafi, Khomeiniite, Deobandi, and Islamic schools funded by Saudi oil  as producing “generations of narrow-eyed men with hairy chins and easily  clenched fists,” taking Islam far from its origins while claiming to be  returning to its roots.

This book is something of a diary in narrative form with many unexpected  digressions. He describes his life as a writer before and during his death  sentence, even detailing how he came to write The Satanic Verses and other books  that have brought him acclaim. He says his first major book, “Midnight’s  Children,” was the result of 13 years of rumination during which he made many  false starts and wrote “enormous” quantities of “garbage.

He never quite loses his sense of humor. The police allowed him to take a  short stroll in public one day if he agreed to wear a wig. He acquiesced and on  the street overheard a passerby say, “There goes that bastard Salman Rushdie in  a wig.” He recalls one joke making the rounds in London during his invisible  years: “Who is tall, blond, has big tits and is living in Tasmania? Salman  Rushdie.” Despite all, he seemed to relish the lighter side.

He credits the U.S. commitment to freedom as his salvation during the darkest  days of British ambivalence. Police protection might have been withdrawn but for  a hero’s welcome in Washington when he managed a secret flight into the country.  “America had made it impossible for the British to walk away from (my) defense,”  he writes.

Salman Rushdie continues his prolific output, of which this book is a  valuable example. He has exorcized his demons that remained from his traumatic  years on the run but has given us a stark reminder that his case was a mere  skirmish in a much longer and deeper conflict between rational forces in the  West and the fanatical wing of a badly distorted religion.

WHAT RELIGIONS HAVE IN COMMON | Salman Rushdie


WHAT RELIGIONS HAVE IN COMMON

What religions have in common - salman rushdie, quotes, religion, wrongness,

Salman Rushdie

Defend Blasphemers


International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers – Guest Post
Bjarte Foshung     From Fevic, Norway.
posted in the comments section of the Guardian (in response to the recent debate between Richard Dawkins and Will Hutton regarding the role of religion in Britain’s public life) which I hope bears repeating:

It should be pretty clear by now that anything other than discrimination in religion’s favour will be construed as anti-religious discrimination or “imposing atheism”. The appalling thing is that in the west in the 21st century “secularism” (i.e. the absence of any religious bias from politics) still needs defending at all.

In Saudi Arabia Hamza Kashgari faces prosecution, and possibly execution, for being insufficiently deferential when tweeting about Mohammed. In Indonesia Alexander Aan is in jail (after being violently attacked by the religious mob) for making an atheist remark on Facebook (atheism is officially a crime in Indonesia). In India Salman Rushdie had to cancel his appearance at the Jaipur literary festival because of death threats. In Amsterdam muslim extremists stormed a book launch by muslim reformist Irshad Manji, threatening to break her neck. In London the Atheism, Secularism, and Humanism Society at Queen Mary College had to cancel a meeting after a muslim began filming the attendants and threatening to kill them. And some people want to tell us to that “militant” secularism is really the problem here (Notice the double standard btw: Atheists are called “militant” if they use logic and humour, whereas militant believers use threats and violence.)

Atheists are not the ones who are advocating a double standard. We are not singling out religious beliefs for special criticism. We just don’t see why it should be singled out for special protection, and we are confident that no religion could survive in the absence of the astronomical double standards that are now applied in their favour. The moment we start judging religious claims by the same standards of logic and evidence by which even the believers themselves judge secular claims, then religion will have been dealt a mortal blow. Even weak scientific hypotheses generally have more going for them than any religious claim ever had (the argument from design is just embarrassing, and all the other arguments for God’s existence are even worse), yet no scientist worth his weight in salt refrains from criticizing a weak hypothesis (or indeed a strong one) for fear of causing offence. Those who have good reasons for what they believe, appeal to those. Appeals to “respect for the beliefs of others” are only ever heard when there are no good reasons to appeal to. But a belief can hardly become any more worthy of respect for being based on bad reasons. As Sam Harris so eloquently put it: “Faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail”.

There is an equally appalling moral double standard. As a thought experiment, imagine a ruler of some foreign country (preferably a white, western, secular one, otherwise we might just have to “respect his culture”) who said and did all the same things that the biblical god supposedly said and did (ordering genocides, demanding rape victims to be stoned, threatening to force anyone who disobeys him to eat their children etc.). Now imagine the reaction if someone in our part of the world publically sided with this disgusting monster. My guess is that they would be met with public outrage and charges of “hate-speech”. Leftist radicals would organize protests wherever they went, and we would see attempts to have their views censored. Substitute our imaginary dictator for an equally imaginary god, and much of the indignation suddenly turns against those who criticize the same evil. If this is not hypocrisy, then nothing is.

Even if the Bible represented the very best of its day (which it clearly didn’t), the best of the Iron Age is still awful by the standards of the 21st century and should not be allowed to influence modern life in any way. If you believe in a god who literally said and did everything that Yahweh is supposed to have said and done according to the Bible, and in spite of this you still take God’s side, then there is nothing you can accuse anybody else of that is worse than what you, yourself actively favour. Religious moderates and liberals, on the other hand, may not promote intolerance and violence themselves, but through their disingenuous whitewashing of their holy texts they give legitimacy to books and doctrines that definitely promote intolerance and violence. And just in case you wonder, I have read the Bible, and if there is any overarching message to be derived from this disaster area of a book it’s that God is not a moderate.

International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates

 

Muslim Ignoramus Attacks Unrepentant Blasphemer Salman Rushdie


Salman Rushdie brushes off call for festival ‘blasphemy’ ban

  • by: Amanda Hodge

AN Indian Muslim leader has demanded Salman Rushdie be banned from the country’s biggest literary festival, warning that an invitation to the novelist who endured a fatwa will add “salt to injury”.

The vice-chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, one of India’s most influential Islamic seminaries, has called on the government to deny the Indian-born writer a visa to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival over the insult caused to Muslims by his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.

“I call upon the Muslim organisations of the country to mount pressure on the centre to withdraw the visa and prevent him visiting India, where community members still feel hurt owing to the anti-Islamic remarks in his writings,” Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani said this week.

“The Muslims cannot pardon him at any cost. If he visits India, it would be adding salt to the injuries of Muslims.”

More here:-

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/salman-rushdie-brushes-off-call-for-festival-blasphemy-ban/story-e6frg6so-1226242085384

Stephen Fry Wins Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism


Stephen chatting (below) on the “The Importance of Unbelief”

The Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism is presented at Harvard University each year by the Harvard Secular Society on behalf of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and the American Humanist Association. Selected by a committee of 20-30 Harvard students each year, this award is given to a figure greatly admired by our students and community for both artistic and humanitarian reasons.

Now in its fifth year, the HSS Cultural Humanism committee has chosen Stephen Fry based on what they feel is an outstanding contribution to Humanism in popular culture.

Actor, author, comedian, and outspoken Humanist, Fry has worked for three decades in film and theater. Well known for his exploration of the US in Fry in America, Fry has also starred alongside Hugh Laurie (A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster) and in a variety of other award-winning films including V for Vendetta, Wilde, Alice in Wonderland, and his own documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Fry has more than two million followers on Twitter.

The award ceremony will take place Tuesday, February 22 at 8 pm and will feature a performance by Fry.

Previous winners of the Cultural Humanism Award are, in 2007, novelist Sir Salman Rushdie, in 2008, punk rock star Greg Graffin (of the band Bad Religion and the UCLA Faculty of Biology), in 2009, writer/ director/producer Joss Whedon (“Buffy,” “Angel,” Firefly,” “Dollhouse”) and in 2010 Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the hosts of The MythBusters.