by S. Abbas Raza
On February 14, 1989, I was working as a young engineer in my office at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, DC, when I heard the news of Khomeini's murderous fatwa against Salman Rushdie and all the publishers of his novel The Satanic Verses. In retrospect, I am surprised by just how much the news upset me. I was unable to work and got permission to leave early and went home. It wasn't just that Salman Rushdie was one of my favorite writers, someone I consider a literary genius, and I was afraid for his safety; it was also that I knew in my gut that this was the opening salvo in what would become a massive internationalization of an Islamic war on freedom of speech and expression. After all, the government of Iran was threatening and planning to murder a British citizen, and even encouraging other Britons to murder him by putting a bounty on his head, with the enthusiastic approval of a large proportion of Muslims everywhere. And although, thank goodness, Rushdie remains safe, the Islamists have largely been winning this war since. They have successfully intimidated a very large number of writers and artists and journalists and film-makers all over the world into silence (and many live in exile because of threats to their safety), and within Muslim countries they have in addition used blasphemy laws to persecute their enemies and basically make any discussion of religion impossible. All this while religious apologists continue to proclaim to CNN and the BBC that their religion stands only for peace. Tell that to the tens of thousands of victims of religious violence in Pakistan alone. “Oh, the number of extremists is very small; most Muslims are peace-loving people.” The number of actual terrorists is always small. The problem is that too great a proportion of Muslims sympathize with these people, which is why it is impossible to eliminate them. Let us stop fooling ourselves with this nonsense. People need to stand up for free speech unequivocally, and against this barbarity, and especially Muslims need to. The battle must be joined now, in every way possible.
Salman Rushdie has just given a statement about the attack. It is here.