So how many of us have really read the book, ‘The Satanic Verses’? Yes, we’ve been told its ‘blasphemous’, we’ve read about it in the newspaper, maybe heard it mentioned at the dinner table. We all know it’s a ‘bad book’, but do we know why? No we don’t, and neither do the thousand or so street protestors in Iran and Pakistan. Chances are that they hadn’t even heard the name Salman Rushdie prior to this.
So what makes this book so ‘sacrilegious’, so heretic? Why is it condemned, banned, and denounced across the Muslim world? My answer to you is: I really don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it’s an opinion. An extreme opinion, I’ll give you that. But still an opinion. Charles I of England was executed for defying Parliament and instigating a civil war. Prime Minister Bhutto was hanged in the 1970’s against charges of rigging elections and plotting to kill his political opponents. You don’t issue a death sentence against someone for holding a perspective. There’s a word that describes such an act; it’s intolerance.
Despite this, one might (and rightly so) consider the fatwa a serious matter; one that should be looked into. After all, you don’t have every author being issued a death sentence against. Let us consider the basis of this fatwa. In 1989, Supreme Leader of the Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, calling for the assassination of Salman Rushdie. He deemed the assassination a ‘religious duty’ for Muslims. In other words, us Muslims were given a ‘license to kill’ the author because he was…well, blasphemous. Why then did Khomeini fail to issue a fatwa against a group of Iranian students that seized the United States embassy in Tehran, taking 63 American citizens as hostage in 1979? Why was no fatwa issued against them? Khomeini supported the hostage takers, declaring ‘America can’t do a damn thing.’ So when a fatwa is issued by a leader who sat back during an emergency crisis, one should only regard it in one light: by not taking it seriously.
But we have taken it to heart. We were outraged that Salman Rushdie was knighted. None of us considered his contributions to Literature, his great writing, the numerous awards he’s achieved for his work. We only kept the weighty fatwa in mind, a fatwa that is not binding, and has no basis. So he said something disparaging about Islam. He wasn’t the first one to do it. He certainly won’t be the last. There are many more cartoons to come! Will be issue a fatwa against them all? Or will we just bomb or murder them, like Van Gogh’s grandson was by a Dutch Muslim? The Chinese didn’t broadcast celebrations of the Year of the Pig recently. They did it because they didn’t want to offend the Muslim community. But ultimately, they did it because they were scared of how we would react. We’ve instilled fear not only in the Western world, by in our own neighbors. When does it stop?
The real deserver of a fatwa isn’t an Indian-born author with an opinion. It isn’t tourism minister Nilofer Bakhtiar for hugging her parachute instructor. It isn’t tennis star Sania Mirza for failing to adhere to the ‘Islamic dress code’. The real deservers are the instigators of violence; a fatwa should be declared against the AK-47 armed students of Lal Masjid, and the burqa-clad miscreants from Jamia Hafza.
Salman Rushdie is innocent. Let’s try dolling out death sentences to the real criminals.