Apostasy, Blasphemy and Heresy

Editorial: Nobel prize and Rushdie?

2 The Review of Religions – August 2007 Arshad Ahmedi – Stevenage, UK EDITORIAL Nobel Prize and Rushdie? In June 2007, the unexpected news filtered out from the UK that Salman Rushdie was to be knighted by the Queen in her Honours list for his services to literature. Going by the euphoria that normally surrounds the subject involving Rushdie, it came as no surprise that differing reactions reverberated around the United Kingdom and the Muslim world. Whereas on the one hand the western media justified such an honour with the usual accolades, on the other hand certain elements of the Muslim fraternity reacted in the way they know best: by remonstrating and burning effigies. Who is right, and who is wrong? The fact of the matter is that neither is right, but the way that feelings have been expressed or justified leaves a lot to be desired. What has prompted the out-going Prime Minister Tony Blair to put Rushdie’s name forward for such an honour normally bestowed upon someone who has made a great and positive impact upon British culture? As a Booker Prize winner, has Rushdie achieved such high status amongst other writers, who incidentally have also won this prize, that a knighthood is an appropriate and a just reward? And what of the reactions of the handful of ‘so-called Muslims’, who are ridiculing the good name of Islam by their unacceptable behaviour, which is guaranteed to get the headlines all around the world? It seems that the knighthood is a reward for Sir Salman for ‘stirring things up’ between Islam and the West through his writing over a few decades. He is a man who does not take criticism or defeat well at all. Philip Howard, the literary editor of The Times, mentions the debacle that followed the failure of one of Rushdie’s earlier novels, Shame, to win the Booker Prize after it was made the favourite to do so: ‘It (Shame) was the favourite to win the Booker. When it did not, Rushdie took it badly. He leapt to his feet and harangued the judges and passers-by.’ (The Times, 15 February 1989). Perhaps it was this intense passion and desire for fame and glory that Rushdie flaunted which made him the target for the Judaeo-Christian conspirators against Islam, who then took him under their wing and slowly but surely nurtured him to become part of their spiteful and implacable crusade to further defame and distort the name of Islam. In 1995, Rushdie, much to his disappointment, failed to win the Booker prize for The Moor’s Last Sigh. In spite of this he received great support from his close band of followers, like Auberon Waugh, Editor of The Literary Review who said that a man who had been chased ‘from pillar to post by religious maniacs’ deserved victory, (The Times, November 1995). The fact that Waugh admitted that he had not even read Rushdie’s novel just adds absurdity to the blinkered and fanatical support Rushdie has received, just to reward him in the name of freedom of speech. But the knighthood is for services to literature, not for being a victim of the actions of some ‘fundamentalists’ or indeed for freedom of speech. At this rate, very soon the next ‘obvious’ step would be the pinnacle in anyone’s life: the Nobel Prize, and in Rushdie’s case for Literary Fiction. Everyone has a right to an opinion, and a right for freedom of expression. But freedom without any sort of boundaries would lead to anarchy. Could you imagine letting everyone drive cars with freedom on any side of the road? What would be the reaction if nudists were allowed 3 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – August 2007 to express their freedom in public places where there are young children? No matter who we are, or what position we hold in society, no one has complete freedom to do what one likes. Writers are not a special breed of privileged people that are afforded carte blanche. In fact it is quite the opposite; they are the ones who have to exercise the most control because they reach out to a greater audience. But where the ‘freedom of expression’ card is used to wilfully cause hurt and incite hatred causing riots, as did Rushdie, then that writer deserves no credit. Having read all Rushdie’s books, and moving in the circle of writers and publishers, both Western and Eastern, I have yet to meet one who has such high praise for him that merits any Book award, let alone a Booker Prize, or knighthood. Most literary people I know have all said, without exception, that they start to read his books, purely due to the publicity surrounding him. They end up putting them down after only a few pages: so incongruent and disjointed do they find his writing. So how did he become such a renowned author? Every sane and rational human being is able to deduce that there are greater powers behind him and that mischief is the ultimate purpose. Lauding Rushdie with more ‘honours’ will add fuel to a hotbed of simmering ashes, and those that are behind this and support him unreservedly are equally guilty. Some western writers have also doubted the suspicious motive of Rushdie’s writings. An eminent English author, Roald Dahl, a member of the Society of Authors, and who is perhaps the first non-Muslim to bravely expose Rushdie for what he truly represents, raised a very important question in a letter published in The Times, 28th February 1989. In it he wrote: ‘with all that has been written 4 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – August 2007 and spoken about the Rushdie affair, I have not yet heard any non-Muslim voices raised in criticism of the writer himself. On the contrary, he appears to be regarded as some sort of hero… To my mind, he is a dangerous opportunist. Clearly he has profound knowledge of the Muslim religion, its people, and he must have been totally aware of the deep and violent feelings his book would stir up among devout Muslims. In other words, he knew exactly what he was doing and he cannot plead otherwise.’ Roald Dahl ends his letter by making a very noteworthy observation which has been missed by most of the western media and Rushdie’s supporters: ‘In a civilised world we all have a moral obligation to apply a modicum of censorship to our own work in order to reinforce this principle of free speech.’ Another English novelist, Will Self, brands his literary colleague, Rushdie, ‘irrespon- sible’ for accepting the award considering the outrage it has created among Muslims worldwide. He says: ‘Given the furore The Satanic Verses occasioned, it does strike me that any responsible writer might ask himself whether the fallout from accepting such an honour was really worth the bauble. It is surely better that writers decline any form of honour.’ But Rushdie is one who hankers after publicity at any cost, and he and his band of cohorts have tried to use the ‘fiction card’ to justify his ‘over-imaginative’ and creative writing of the The Satanic Verses. The Holy Prophet(saw) of Islam, his noble wives and companions are mentioned specifically by name, which leaves absolutely no room for any doubt in the reader’s mind as to who is being alluded. Let us examine some sections from The Satanic Verses. 5 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – August 2007 Some allegations against the Holy Prophet(saw), his noble wives and companions In The Satanic Verses, matters relating to polygamy and the alleged licentiousness of the Holy Prophet(saw) have been treated with the most potent poison: ‘In spite of the ditch of Yathrib, the faithful lost a good many men in the war against Jahilia… And after the end of the war, hey presto, there was the Archangel Gibreel instructing the surviving males to marry the widowed women….. Salman cried, we were even told it didn’t matter if we were already married, we could have up to four marriages if we could afford it, well, you can imagine, the lads really went for that. What finally finished Salman with Mahound: the question of the women; and of the Satanic verses. Listen, I’m no gossip, Salman drunkenly confided, but after his wife’s death Mahound was no angel, you understand my meaning…. Those women up there: they turned his beard half-white in a year…. he went for mothers and daughters, think of his first wife and then Ayesha: too old and too young, his two loves.’ (p.366). ‘How many wives? Twelve, and one old lady, long dead. How many whores behind the Curtain? Twelve again;……. When the news got around Jahilia that the whores of the Curtain had each assumed the identity of one of Mahound’s wives, the clandestine excitement of the city’s males was intense;…. So, in the Prophet’s absence, the men of Jahilia flocked to the Curtain, which experienced a three hundred per cent increase in business….. The fifteen-year- old whore ‘Ayesha’ was the most popular with the paying public, just as her namesake was with Mahound.’ (pp.380/381). Rushdie also mocks the idea that Muhammad(saw) would go into trances when he wanted 6 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – August 2007 revelations to be sent to suit his needs. Rushdie picks on another incident concerning the Holy Prophet(saw) and Ayesha to continue his perverted account in casting doubt using defamatory language. This incident was the one in which some scandal- mongers tried to taint the noble character of Ayesha, and it took a revelation from God to put the matter straight and exonerate Ayesha completely. Rushdie has, as usual, treated the subject without any sensitivity and has used it to ridicule and to deride: ‘Lemme tell you instead. Hottest story in town. Whoo- whoo!’ … The two young people had been alone in the desert for many hours, and it was hinted, more and more loudly, that Safwan was a dashingly handsome fellow, and the Prophet was much older than the young woman, after all, and might she not therefore have been attracted to someone closer to her own age?… ‘What will Mahound do?’ Baal wanted to know. ‘O, he’s done it,’ Salman replied. ‘Same as ever. He saw his pet, the archangel, and then informed one and all that Gibreel had exonerated Ayesha.’ Salman spread his arms in worldly resignation. ‘And this time, mister, the lady didn’t complain about the convenience of the verses.’ (pp.386/387). Is this the work of a writer who has the interest of the reader in mind, or a deliberate attempt to incite and hurt the sensitivities of Muslims at large? Rather than ‘honouring’ Rushdie to the hilt with presumably the Nobel Prize, the next in a long line of accolades, he should be exposed for what he really is, by rational and logical means and at the same time to extol the true beauties of Islam. We would simply like the mischief the likes of Rushdie and 7 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – August 2007 Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born a Muslim in Bombay, the only son of Anis Ahmed Rushdie and Negin Butt. After a career in advertising, he took up writing. He has been married four times with all marriages ending or in one case about to end in divorce. In 1999, he had an operation to open up his eyes. He is a self avowed atheist. His first work was ignored by the public. His Midnight’s Children received the Booker Prize, the Booker Prize committee nomi- nating him in 1993 as the Booker of Bookers. Magic realism became his genre. In September 1988, Rushdie published The Satanic Verses in which he seemed to give vent to his personal perversion by scornfully refering to a falsely reported tradition that the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) (whom Rushdie refers to as Mahound) added verses in an attempt to accept three goddesses wor- shipped by the Makkans. According to those who believe their accomplices to be exposed to the world so that in future no one is allowed to inflict such wilful hurt to the adherents of any faith. Religion should always be judged from the sources upon which it is based, and not from the actions and pronouncements of a handful of fanatics or politicians. The Islam taught and practised by the Holy Prophet(saw) is a most beautiful and attractive religion. It is this Islam which will captivate the hearts of the entire world if it is given a chance to flourish. We can only hope and pray that the whole world becomes more tolerant and that it exercises more control over the ‘freedoms’ it professes to give everyone. 8 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – August 2007 SOME OTHER FACTS in this falsehood, the Prophet revoked these verses as being from the Satan. Such people ignore the fact that the whole chapter is a strong rejection of idol worship and the question of any satanic prompting does not arise and is totally out of context. Rushdie on the other hand reinvents history by attributing these verses to the Archangel Gabriel. This book was banned in many Muslim countries. In Bradford and other places in the world, the book was burnt on the streets. A fatwa (an edict) was issued by Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, the then spriritual leader of Iran calling the book blasphemous and a bounty of US$1 million offered for his death. Rushdie went into retreat with police protection costing several million pounds each year. Diplomatic relations between Iran and Britain were broken. Rushdie offered a public apology but to no avail. Since then Rushdie has spoken out against the bill designed to prevent religious hatred, has stated that veils suck and commented on the Danish cartoons. For his services to British literature (although he spends more time in USA than in Britain) or as some would have it portrayed for all these services against Islam, he was knighted as Sir Salman on 16 June 2007. Once again, calls for his death were renewed by several misguided Muslim groups. Pakistan’s religious affairs minister, Mr Mohammad Ejaz- ul-Haq was reported to have said that: ‘if someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified.’ Islam does not need suicide bombers to tackle such writers: what is needed is a rational retort in writing to those who use the pen to criticise Islam. 9 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – August 2007