Of Mobs and Muslims, the Rushdie Limit and Rushdie Capital

Rohit Chopra in Chapati Mystery about the furor after Salman Rushdie was prevented from speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival:

I did not attend the festival, but got a ringside view of the drama on the Internet. I grew sick of it at some point of time, but could not stop reading or reacting on Twitter. This was not just gratuitous rubbernecking if I may say so myself. What bothered me was the way in which the debate had been hijacked—not just by Rushdie’s detractors and critics but, equally, by his supporters—effectively prohibiting the expression of any nuanced political view beyond Rushdie-or-Deobandi. I could not help think. “You are either with us or you are with the enemy”. Where had I heard that before?

If Maulana Nomani of Deoband and his supporters were and are guilty of a revolting piety, then Rushdie’s supporters were and are surely guilty of sanctimony. For instance, in their unfair demand—not unlike a theological diktat—that all right-minded Muslims, Indians, Indian Muslims, lovers of literature, and lovers of free speech everywhere are obligated take up cudgels on behalf of Rushdie. And in their exaggerated claim that such an act will reverse decades of intolerance and make whole India’s compromised modernity and failed enlightenment.

Because such a claim assumes that India is locked, in Dipesh Chakrabarty’s phrase, in the “waiting room of history,” til Sir Salman of South Bombay and his band of merry men and women usher it in to the clear future of liberal utopia, away from the darkness in which medieval Muslim hordes and Hindu obscurantists keep us. Because it plots a graph of Indian intolerance—Rushdie, Laine, Nasreen, Mistri, Ramanujan—that does not recognize the many ways in which Indians struggle everyday for their rights, including the right of freedom of expression and the right of freedom of religion.

More here.