Message of Islam

15- RUSHDIE – SATANIC FICTION (S.M.A.Nasser exposes the Satanic Verses as Satanic Fiction) (The,foUowing was published in the Dorset Institute Law Student Magazine. Mr. S.M.A.Nasser is a Principal Lecturer in Law) INTRODUCTTON It is amazing that so much has been written about Salmon Rushdie’s book Satanic Verses.yet no one has analysed possible motives (other than profit) or tried to explain where the ideas might have come from. Most news reports have focused on Khomeni’s fatwas — which have been universally condemned. Although occasional indirect support for the fatwas by some writers and commentators has existed. For instance, Yaqub Zaki, an ethnic Scotsman, writing in The Times tried very hard to convince us that the reactions of extremist mullahs and those of Xhomeni were understandable and indeed were no different from what has happened in the past and could happen in the future in both theocratic and secular states. More on such extremist view points later. It is an undeniable fact that Penguin Publishers and Rushdie have made a lot of money from the book – perhaps most of it is attributable to the publicity surrounding it. It is impossible to believe that more than a small percentage of purchasers have actually read the book. The average English reader has not only to enter Rushdie’s psychotic trance but also has to put up with the book’s tedious literary style incorporating innuendos in words and names that mean little to him. Who knows the meaning of ekdumjaldi, tinkas, and so on? To make any sense the reader also has to be familiar with characters from Hindu mythology and Islamic history and tradition. Obviously, there was no sense to the book unless the intention was to mock and defame. It is curious to note that slanderous and defamatory words and statements appear to be used in a calculated manner directed against names and personalities that have a particularly strong emotional and religious attachment with Muslim sentiments in general and Iranian Shia sentiments in particular. THE MOTIVES Questions then arise – why should Rushdie write a book that is potentially a flop because of its limited appeal? Why write a defamatory work of fiction which can offend but not be subject to academic review? Why should Penguin publish a book wjith limited appeal and a potential 16 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS flop with the possibility of law suits against them for blasphemy in the various Islamic states? The justification of freedom of speech is a non-starter. First, because that is an idea put forward after the event to defend the book. Second, the book does not claim to be putting forth ideas that have not been allowed to be aired before. Third, because neither Rushdie nor Penguin are in the business of championing causes such as freedom of speech and expression. It is interesting to note that the title Satanic Verses is a plagiarism from Muhammad at Mecca (1953) by the Scotsman Professor W. Montgomery Watt. What a revelation! Indeed, one could be forgiven for believing that Rushdie’s book – the parts relating to the Prophet were actually written by Professor Montgomery Watt. The similarities of presentation are uncanny. One difference is that Watt’s J>ook is a serious one subject to academic review and scrutiny. But, his book is known only to a handful of scholars. It is ironic that none of the vociferous Muslim ulema have picked up on these points made by Professor Watt in 19 53! Rushdie, on the other hand can argue that his book is only a novel – a fiction that cannot be debated. It is stranger indeed to note that Rushdie did not acknowledge the principal source for his book other than an oblique reference to those who must remain anonymous. Such a blatant omission, coupled with the provocative title, the subject matter and subsequent events, is difficult to explain. POSSIBLE OBJECTIVES First, to hurt Iran’s sensibilities as it had failed to bow down to Western might and influence in the face of overwhelming pressures. Second, to besmirch the good reputation and name of Islam by exploiting the inevitable over-reaction of the Khomeni regime. Predictably, the book has succeeded in exploiting the fundamental departures from true Islamic values and traditions that have been invented by Muslim fundamentalist groups. Such fundamentalists have only themselves to blame. PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY AND BLASPHEMY IN ISI^AM IS NOT DEATH These fanatic groups have adopted the theories put forward by Khomeni and Abul Ala Maududi (Jamaat-e-Islami the counterpart of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt). Followers of their theories include the late President Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan. Maududi advocated a method of Islamic reform modelled on Marxism and Khomeni used similar ideas to lead a revolution. One such theory was that in Islam the punishment for . • • REVIEW OF RELIGIONS . 17 apostasy and blasphemy was death. In reality, there is no authority in Islamic law to support this viewpoint. Indeed clear authority actually points to no .punishment. Even Khomeni with his life-long,study of the Quran based his fatwa • against Rushdie on verse 5:34. The text reveals that the death penalty occasionally applies to: those who wage war against Allah and His’Messenger and strive to create disorder i n t h e land. (5:34) ‘ . . . – . – . This clear reference to persons committing acts against the state can by no stretch of the imagination .be attributed to simple apostates or blasphemers. Clear references to apostasy in the Quran, namely 2:218; 47:26; 5:55; 4:138; 3:145; etcM invoke neither capital nor corporal punishment in this world – only punishment In the hereafter by Allah. The declaration there shall be no compulsion in religion (2:257), speaks for itself and no amount of secondary sources to support the Maududi viewpoint can override it. . . Likewise for blasphemy, Islamic law advocates no penalty in this world. Instead, the Quran relies on goodwill to uphold the honur of Allah and his prophets. It says: Arid abuse not those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they, out of spite, abuse Allah in their ignorance. Thus unto every people their deeds seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return; and He will inform them of what they used to do. (6:109) So we have come a full circle with this story. Clearly there are powerful . forces that may have wanted adverse publicity against Islam in general and Khomeni in particular. Rushdie and Penguin became their instruments — motivated by monetary gains. The only losers were Khomem’s Iran, Islam’-s good name (by the perpetuation of a false doctrine on apostasy and blasphemy) and even good racial relations in countries with significant Muslim minorities. In these days of world gloom with the rise of fundamentalism in all religions and of nationalism it is encouraging to see the occasional glimmer’ of moderation and humanity elsewhere. It is foolish to judge .Islam on the .basis of fatwas and pronouncements from politically motivated extremist groups – just as it is foolish to judge Christianity by reference to Hitler, South Africa or Hiroshima. Moderate and rational groups are now speaking out against fanaticism. Indeed, one Muslim 18 REVIEW QF RELIGIONS group, the Ahmadiyya sect, has peacefully opposed the extremist viewpoint for over a century – and has been prosecuted in the process.. If there is one single thing that we can learn from the Rushdie affair – it is that/atwos issuing forth from self-appointed clergy (there being no priesthood in Islam)-rarely represent the true Islam-because they are usually based on extraneous considerations such as a thirst for political power quite divorced from Islamic law, scripture or tradition. This appreciation may ensure that the Rushdie’affair causes ho real lasting damage. . [References from ‘The Holy Quran’ are based on a system that counts the initial verse as verse 1. .Some systems exclude the first verse from the count so that 5:34 becomes 5:33 etc.] (from page 14) . During the life of the Holy Prophet not a single person in Medina was left a hypocrite. He was blessed with a success the like of which is not to be found in the history of any other prophet. We should not be satisfied with mere lip profession otherwise what will distinguish us from other people? Set a practical example of piety and righteousness. Let there be such an excellence in your conduct which would attract others to you otherwise no one will accept you. Does a person like a dirty thing? A single spot on a piece of cloth spoils it. Similarly if there is no purity and excellence in your conduct, no one will be attracted to your way of life. Everyone likes a nice or excellent thing. Therefore, as long as your moral life is not of the highest order, you will, attain no.position and nobody will accept you.