Fighting Words on Sir Salman

Rachel Donadio in The New York Times:

Pcrushdie190 When Britain awarded a knighthood to Salman Rushdie last month, many across the Muslim world protested. The response prompted flashbacks to February 1989, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa sentencing Rushdie and his publishers to death. These days, most intellectuals and editorialists are on Rushdie’s side, as they were back then. But it’s instructive to return to the fatwa period, when some important literary and political voices were critical of Rushdie.

Among them was Jimmy Carter. In a March 1989 Op-Ed article in The New York Times titled “Rushdie’s Book Is an Insult,” Carter argued that “The Satanic Verses” was guilty of “vilifying” Muhammad and “defaming” the Koran. “The author, a well-versed analyst of Moslem beliefs, must have anticipated a horrified reaction throughout the Islamic world,” Carter wrote. Roald Dahl was even sterner. In a letter to The Times of London, Dahl called Rushdie “a dangerous opportunist,” saying 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 cannot plead otherwise. This kind of sensationalism does indeed get an indifferent book on to the top of the best-seller list, — but to my mind it is a cheap way of doing it.”

“In a civilized 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.”

More here.