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Fight Knight
June 19, 2007 5:07 AM   Subscribe

Sir Salman Rushdie versus the Republic of Pakistan. Rushdie is not one to shy from confrontation (previously) - he's a grand master of the fine art* of the literary feud, sparring with notables including Germaine Greer, John Updike, John Le Carre and (briefly) Martin Amis.
posted by WPW (62 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
My first post. Please be gentle.
posted by WPW at 5:08 AM on June 19, 2007


One thread that underlies the whole bloody controversy is ignorance: a host of people saying stuff like "Well I've never read any of his books but they're OFFENSIVE I tell you BLASPHEMOUS".

Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister Ejaz-ul-Haq sounds like a reasonable man...

"If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified," he said, according to the translation by the Reuters news agency.

"If Britain doesn't withdraw the award, all Muslim countries should break off diplomatic relations."

posted by handee at 5:14 AM on June 19, 2007


Don't forget Iran.
posted by edd at 5:14 AM on June 19, 2007


"The move is part of a campaign being waged in Europe and the West to hurt the feelings of Muslims."

Oh no, not their feelings!!
posted by delmoi at 5:32 AM on June 19, 2007


Perhaps it's because, as a knight, he gets to lead the next crusade.
posted by liquidindian at 5:38 AM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified.

...all Muslim countries should break off diplomatic relations.

With diplomatic relations like these, who needs terrorists?
posted by DU at 5:51 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Happy birthday Sir Salman!
posted by MtDewd at 5:53 AM on June 19, 2007


I predict that this will go well for all involved.
posted by aramaic at 5:54 AM on June 19, 2007


Fact: Salman Rushie is immensely overrated.

He's a product of his time and rode the waves of literary fashion. In 20 years ago, he'll be known as Salman Who? There are fleets of Victorian and Edwardian authors who were in a similar situation, and were feted by their peers at the time, but who are unheard of nowadays.
posted by humblepigeon at 5:56 AM on June 19, 2007


"In 20 years time, he'll be known..."
posted by humblepigeon at 5:59 AM on June 19, 2007


Rushdie's already been well-known for 20 years. That doesn't mean he'll be Salman Who in another 20, but it does indicate a certain amount of staying power.
posted by DU at 6:02 AM on June 19, 2007


That last link contains a brilliant description of a skeptical or offended Rushdie, giving Amis 'the extreme hooded-eye treatment'.

'By this stage Salman looked like a falcon staring through a venetian blind'

I'd forgotten where it came from - thanks!
posted by tiny crocodile at 6:06 AM on June 19, 2007


I've got to agree with humblepigeon. If Khomeini hadn't declared a death sentence on him, he'd be forgotten already.

That, for those who can't distinguish between coincidence and irony, is irony.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:06 AM on June 19, 2007


Later he returned to the floor of the assembly and said his remarks were not meant to be a justification of suicide attacks.

*snorts coffee out nose*

Fundamentalist asshole. Loved the literary feuds angle; I hadn't heard about the Marquez/Llosa "you slept with my wife after I dumped her for a Swedish stewardess!" punching incident. Comedy gold.
posted by mediareport at 6:08 AM on June 19, 2007


Whether he's overrated is a matter of opinion, but I don't think he'd be forgotten. Remember that it was more 'Midnight's Children' that seems to have got him critical acclaim rather than 'The Satanic Verses'.

And besides, he might not be a truly legendary author, but knighthoods do not only go to people whose name will ring throughout the ages or whatever.
posted by edd at 6:13 AM on June 19, 2007


The price on his head has increased dramatically.
posted by Martin E. at 6:20 AM on June 19, 2007


From Martin E.'s link: "Also according to Imam's verdict, if a non-Muslim person can find and execute Rushdie sooner than Muslims, it will be an obligation for Muslims to provide such a person with whatever he wants as his payment or prize," he reminded.

That's quite an impressive incentive.
posted by edd at 6:26 AM on June 19, 2007


One thread that underlies the whole bloody controversy is ignorance: a host of people saying stuff like "Well I've never read any of his books but they're OFFENSIVE I tell you BLASPHEMOUS".

That's also what a lot of fundies might reasonably be able to say of those of us who make fun of their precious books. I couldn't be bothered to read the Bible, or the Book or Mormon, the Koran, or L Ron Hubbard's scribblings, but am more than happy to condemn all of it as total rubbish.

I'm with humblepigeon on Rushdie. He's way overrated as a writer. Midnight's Children was very good. The Moor's Last Sigh was weak and Shame was simply awful. YMMV. Satanic Verses was not a good book and if Khomeni didn't pop a fatwah on his ass, as Pope Guilty observes, no one would be talking about him today.
posted by three blind mice at 6:26 AM on June 19, 2007


Whether he's overrated is a matter of opinion, but I don't think he'd be forgotten. Remember that it was more 'Midnight's Children' that seems to have got him critical acclaim rather than 'The Satanic Verses'.

His literary fame came from his literary works. His popular fame, as it were, came from the fatwa business. But that's not the issue.

The problem I have with Rushdie is that his books seem awfully contrived. I can't enjoy them. I just don't "get it", and I suspect that "getting it" is part of some game that I really don't want to play. It's almost literature by numbers. It's puppetry literature—pull the right strings and watch how people clap and applaud.

The other problem I have is that he writes about literary fashionable topics, and I suspect this is where his critical praise comes from. He was the right guy writing about the right kind of thing at the right time. Take the books out of the cultural context into which they were published and they'll struggle to stand alone. He ain't no Dickens or Austen.

This is why I don't think he'll be enduring. In fact, I'm sure of it. He's a footnote. He's the kind of author who will be rediscovered by some bright young literary researcher in 50 years time, who'll sing his praises to an unimpressed world.
posted by humblepigeon at 6:28 AM on June 19, 2007


I love how Muslims spread the message of love, community and tolerance.

If Mr Rushdie should ever be killed by a Muslim (like van Gogh) this would drive many 'normal' Europeans and Americans pretty mad.
posted by homodigitalis at 6:30 AM on June 19, 2007


I love how Muslims spread the message of love, community and tolerance.

Be careful who you tar with that brush, buddy.
posted by humblepigeon at 6:36 AM on June 19, 2007


I'm no literary critic - just an avid reader - and I have to say I have really enjoyed those Rushdie books I've read (Midnight's Children, The ground beneath her feet). I would happily pick up another.
posted by handee at 6:37 AM on June 19, 2007


The problem I have with Rushdie is that his books seem awfully contrived. I can't enjoy them. I just don't "get it", and I suspect that "getting it" is part of some game that I really don't want to play. It's almost literature by numbers. It's puppetry literature—pull the right strings and watch how people clap and applaud.

I set out to read all the Booker prize winners at one point. I made it about halfway and gave in when I realized about 70% of the books I finished were just what you have described. They were formulaic. If I want to read the same book over and over with different locales I'll read the Bourne series.

I love how Muslims spread the message of love, community and tolerance.

If Mr Rushdie should ever be killed by a Muslim (like van Gogh) this would drive many 'normal' Europeans and Americans pretty mad.


They might even try and deliver some democracy!
posted by srboisvert at 6:48 AM on June 19, 2007


"
From Martin E.'s link: "Also according to Imam's verdict, if a non-Muslim person can find and execute Rushdie sooner than Muslims, it will be an obligation for Muslims to provide such a person with whatever he wants as his payment or prize," he reminded.

That's quite an impressive incentive."

So if I kill rushdie, all muslims will renounce their god and start a secular republic? I think rushide would lie down like a lamb for that one.
posted by lalochezia at 6:53 AM on June 19, 2007


I read the articles that concerned Updike and Le Carre and I can't help but be disappointed in the quality of these mutual attacks. I mean, this is it? Writers calling each other arrogant and illiterate? Nothing more creative or interesting than that? I guess I expected more from them. Ain't none of 'em Mark Twain.
posted by Clay201 at 7:05 AM on June 19, 2007


Instead of "Ain't none of 'em Mark Twain." I should have said "Ain't none of 'em Mark Twain."
posted by Clay201 at 7:17 AM on June 19, 2007


From Martin E.'s link: "Also according to Imam's verdict, if a non-Muslim person can find and execute Rushdie sooner than Muslims, it will be an obligation for Muslims to provide such a person with whatever he wants as his payment or prize,

I want peace and justice for all.
posted by matteo at 7:37 AM on June 19, 2007


"The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title," ul-Haq said.

Uh, what?
posted by the other side at 7:55 AM on June 19, 2007


I read 'The Satanic Verses' quite recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, all the way through, I was expecting some majorly blasphemous passage. I was expecting to be shocked. To at least be able to understand a small fraction of the outrage felt by much of the Muslim world at this work of fiction and its author. It never happened.

I'm willing to accept that perhaps my limited understanding of Islam precluded me from spotting the heinous blasphemy. I'm also willing to suggest that religious fundamentalists of all stripes are a tad oversensitive.
posted by MrMustard at 7:59 AM on June 19, 2007


Heh--from Clay201's link above:

A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.

Counting these out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.

posted by LooseFilter at 8:03 AM on June 19, 2007


Wonderful post WPW. Thanks.
posted by chime at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2007


The problem I have with Rushdie is that his books seem awfully contrived. I can't enjoy them. I just don't "get it", and I suspect that "getting it" is part of some game that I really don't want to play. It's almost literature by numbers. It's puppetry literature—pull the right strings and watch how people clap and applaud.

The other problem I have is that he writes about literary fashionable topics, and I suspect this is where his critical praise comes from. He was the right guy writing about the right kind of thing at the right time. Take the books out of the cultural context into which they were published and they'll struggle to stand alone. He ain't no Dickens or Austen.


You're welcome to your opinion, obviously, but you're using a lot of words here to say very very little. what are the right strings that puppetry literature pulls? what are the literarily fashionable topics? what was the right kind of thing and what was the right time and what made him the right kind of guy? being an indian writing about india 20 some odd years after india won it's independence? and what precisely is this supposed to mean? "Take the books out of the cultural context into which they were published and they'll struggle to stand alone. He ain't no Dickens or Austen." There is, I take it, something wrong with having written a book that people want to read at the time it was published. Things like this are always up to speculation, but I'd wager that if Austen had not been published when she were and had instead somehow written her books nowadays they would not be published. neither would dickens.

Here is the best translation I am able to make of your statements:

I don't like Rushdie because I don't get him. He's some kind of puppeteer... somehow. He writes books people want to read. If you read his books outside the culture in which they were originally published (say for instance, someone reading midnight's children today) then you won't like them.

I can't imagine that this is really what you're trying to say.
posted by shmegegge at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2007


I've only read a couple of his books, but I've got to say I think he's pretty useful with a pen - I think his take on the East is humane, engaging and, for once in a western author, not orientalist. And since the relationship between Orient and Occident is goign to be pretty central for a while, I think he'll last.
posted by YouRebelScum at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2007


ps: my favorite passage from the article:

"If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified," he said, according to the translation by the Reuters news agency.

[...]

Later he returned to the floor of the assembly and said his remarks were not meant to be a justification of suicide attacks.


they, they weren't? then... I mean... huh?
posted by shmegegge at 8:55 AM on June 19, 2007


The cosmopolitan West was crafted in antagonism with an ignorant, subservient East. Who are we to hold against that East their failure to understand and rationally engage with what is to them a direct challenge in a very foreign, Western mode of discourse? Meanwhile, who are we to claim that we can understand their responses to that challenge in the way it was originally meant? We don't understand each other because our now centuries-old relationship was designed to be that way.

Also, it's interesting that an Indian-born Western intellectual is being knighted for a body of work that directly challenges the culture, customs, and attitudes of his people as backwards, ignorant, or self-destructive, the very same criticisms persistently leveled against that people by colonial rule? Empire needs collaborators.
posted by Shakeer at 10:39 AM on June 19, 2007


Dude, I'll not defend all of his novels. I mean, I've read Grimus (although only half of Fury). But come on, The Ground Beneath her Feet is pretty incredible. It's epic, and funny, and deep and fun, full of vivid descriptions that really grab me and fill me with a longing for Bombay (to which I've never been), gleefully messing about with history, &c. &c. It's about Orpheus and Elvis Presley, and so on.

By the by, the crazy multi-media opera-thing based on it is premiering in ten days, and I dearly wish I could get to Manchester.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 11:04 AM on June 19, 2007


MrMustard writes "To at least be able to understand a small fraction of the outrage felt by much of the Muslim world at this work of fiction and its author. It never happened. "

My understanding is that the main problem was the title. When translated, the word Ayah was used for "verse". So the title became The Satanic Ayahs or The Satanic Verses of the Qur'an. People unfamiliar with the rather obscure history to which this title refers read it as an accusation: "The verses of the Qur'an are satanic". They didn't need to read any farther to feel offended.

So it was basically a misunderstanding.

Shakeer writes "Also, it's interesting that an Indian-born Western intellectual is being knighted for a body of work that directly challenges the culture, customs, and attitudes of his people as backwards, ignorant, or self-destructive, the very same criticisms persistently leveled against that people by colonial rule? "

So you haven't read any Rushdie, then?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:08 PM on June 19, 2007


Roboto--
To be fair, though, Satanic Verses shows a Prophet who is just making shit up, without inspiration from any higher power at all. It's the sort of thing that, were it about Jesus, would have folks in Kansas calling it "Godless" and trying to get it banned from the school library.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 12:36 PM on June 19, 2007


It is impossible for me to see any shades of gray in this issue. One either believes that the right to publish whatever one wishes is a fundamental one, or one believes that certain utterances made my humans require violent suppression.

We seem to be forgetting what a vitally important advance civilization made when (segments of) it sanctified all speech at the expense of sanctioned speech. Any man whose reply to the suborned assassination of a man solely because of his spoken or written words is "Well, I guess he shouldn't have written that then," is an enemy of the enlightenment, reason, and clearly does not value what precious little liberty man has secured for himself in the past few hundred years through imperfect, evolving democratic institutions. As the adage goes, "freedom of speech means freedom of speech specifically for your enemies or it means nothing at all." Excluding speech meant only to directly incite violence, this is black and white, this is a thing to draw a line in the sand over, and this is something I would fight to preserve. Reality requires us to acknowledge that many, many people in the Muslim world, as well as many outside of it, do not share this value and must be countered where and when they intrude and threaten us.

Rushdie is on the side of reason, rationality, and history. Regardless of how one judges the merit of his considerable body of work, he deserves our admiration and fervent support.
posted by inoculatedcities at 1:29 PM on June 19, 2007


inoculatedcities writes "We seem to be forgetting...."

Who the hell is this "we"? I don't see anyone arguing against Rushdie's right to publish here. Not remotely. Your entire rant seems to be coming out of the thin blue air.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:36 PM on June 19, 2007


Mr_roboto: I've only read Midnight's Children. I loved it.
posted by Shakeer at 1:42 PM on June 19, 2007


"Also according to Imam's verdict, if a non-Muslim person can find and execute Rushdie sooner than Muslims, it will be an obligation for Muslims to provide such a person with whatever he wants as his payment or prize," he reminded.

That's quite an impressive incentive."


I'd ask for a retroactive revocation of the fatwa.

TIME PARADOX
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:58 PM on June 19, 2007


Oh, also, I very much enjoyed Satanic Verses. I was once told by some friends that, if I were a book, that was the book I would be. Not sure what to make of that.

I'd be intrigued to read some better-regarded Rushdie novels.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:03 PM on June 19, 2007


mr_roboto - The "we" is the collective of people who live in the one nation on earth that has made freedom of speech a cherished, fundamental value, some of whom seem to be queasy and ambivalent about who is in the right on this issue. My entire "rant" isn't exactly "coming out of the thin blue air," as you so eloquently put it. It wasn't a response to any specific comments here or directed at any poster. It was my stunned reaction to the fact that there is any debate on this matter at all in the United States. What is so difficult to understand about that?
posted by inoculatedcities at 2:05 PM on June 19, 2007


I have to agree with mr_roboto on this one. While I appreciate the stirring tones of inoculatedcities' post, I didn't see anyone questioning the integrity displayed by Mr. Rushdie in standing up to the fatwa. The criticism in the thread thus far has been entirely on the literary merits of his work. Are you suggesting that everyone should have to paraphrase their comments with a pledge of support for free press?

On a side note, Rushdie is a fascinating and engaging speaker. I enjoyed hearing him talk for more than reading any of his books. Also, heart-stoppingly beautiful wife.
posted by uri at 2:34 PM on June 19, 2007


I'm beginning to think the root of all evil in this world is pride. Its at the root of the radical Islam, the Aryian Nation, urban crime culture, and frat houses.
posted by lattiboy at 2:59 PM on June 19, 2007


"In our wish to make ourselves heard, we tend very often to forget that the world is a crowded place, and that if everyone were to insist on the radical purity or priority of one's own voice, all we would have would be the awful din of unending strife, and a bloody political mess, the true horror of which is beginning to be perceptible here and there in the re-emergence of racist politics in Europe, the cacophony of debates over political correctness and identity politics in the United States, and the intolerance of religious prejudice and illusionary promises of Bismarckian despotism, a la Saddam Hussein and his numerous Arab epigones and counterparts."
posted by Shakeer at 3:38 PM on June 19, 2007


inoculatedcities writes "It was my stunned reaction to the fact that there is any debate on this matter at all in the United States. What is so difficult to understand about that?"

There is no such debate in the United States. This is simply not a matter that is debated here. Everyone agrees with you. I just don't get why you're getting all indignant about it.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:21 PM on June 19, 2007


1. Ejaz-ul Haq is an ass. His father was an asshole and is largely credited with the 'Islamization' of Pakistan. That his son has said this comes as no surprise, because his son believes he should be first among equals, but he is not. This move is likely a ploy to get media attention and gain traction amongst religiously-oriented conservatives.


2. The statement was likely designed to get the Islamists all het up and distract from the present constitutional crisis in the country. No one in the former Commonwealth really cares about Knighthoods. Certainly not Islamists--'tis merely the most anglicized to whom a Knighthood would matter. Apparently, the protests against the Queen's elevation by decree of Rushdie have been few and thinly attended, which is good news.

3. How come Rushdie is prepared to receive a medieval title from the embodiment of autocracy and absolute rule, and one whose power was long located in a connection with God, while at the same time being so (rightly) cynical of religion? Monarchy and knighthood are hardly symbols of enlightenment nor the Enlightenment.

4. inoculated cities: you, too, are an ass. If you think there are no laws limiting speech in your country, you need to read some 1st Amendment jurisprudence. Your ignorance renders laughable your own smugness and makes a mockery of your own attempt at outraged speech.

If you have been keeping your eyes and ears open lately, surely you would have heard about people being prosecuted solely for avowing support for Osama bin Laden or Al-Qaeda. Or go out and do the same in a big American city or a small town, and see how law enforcement reacts, or what kind of vigilantism ensues. It may not be terribly different from what would happen if you championed Salman Rushdie in public in, say, Islamabad.

Here is a recent history of blasphemy laws in the UK, prosecuted as recently as 30 years ago. Many of these laws have not been removed but are still law.

And since Rushdie is a European subject and subject to many EU laws nowadays, it should be known that laws limiting speech are more stringent in Continental Europe than in the US.

6. Ultimately, are not we all horrified or angered at this one man's speech in justifying suicide bombing? Well, if we are all such champions of the freedom of speech, what's the big deal? The truth is that speech can be destructive and where the lines are drawn is a complicated matter. Where that line is drawn is what is germane; not whether that line should be drawn at all.
posted by Azaadistani at 5:45 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


The cosmopolitan West was crafted in antagonism with an ignorant, subservient East. Who are we to hold against that East their failure to understand and rationally engage with what is to them a direct challenge in a very foreign, Western mode of discourse? [Etc.]

Edward Said, is that you?

I'm beginning to think the root of all evil in this world is pride. Its at the root of the radical Islam, the Aryian Nation, urban crime culture, and frat houses.

Or, to put it another way, Honour Culture.
posted by WPW at 5:59 PM on June 19, 2007


"you, too, are an ass."

Thank you for elevating the level of discourse here on MeFi, Azaadistani. Making ad hominem attacks against a person you've never met, never engaged, and know absolutely nothing about is truly the sign of an intelligent individual worth listening to.

"If you think there are no laws limiting speech in your country, you need to read some 1st Amendment jurisprudence."

And you need to read more carefully. Did I ever, at any point state that or did I make a case for the defense of free speech, a value that western democracies have fared better in recognizing and protecting than say...oh, Pakistan (to pick one of many, many, countries)? Despite your magical powers of inference that have told you I am woefully ignorant of libel and slander laws, you seem to have completely misunderstood me. I am also fully aware of the fact that the PATRIOT act, executive orders and signing statements, and a whole host of neoconservative inventions have significantly undermined individual liberty in the US, that there are many in this country today who are working to dismantle the institutions created on it's most basic founding principles. Does this dissipation of founding values somehow prove that these are values not worth defending? Does it somehow demonstrate that universal rights granted to those in western democracies (imperfect as they are) but not in much of the world are imaginary? How does the corruption of essentially great ideas lead to the equation of the US with Pakistan? Please explain this to me.

Your ignorance renders laughable your own smugness and makes a mockery of your own attempt at outraged speech.


My ignorance, or your haughty, condescending assumptions?
posted by inoculatedcities at 6:52 PM on June 19, 2007


I should have creditied the above quotes: Shakeer was the first, lattiboy the second.

Azaadistani: On the subject of Rushdie's acceptance of an imperial title, you might be interested in this column. On the subject of the limits of free speech: Ejaz-ul-Haq's repellent remarks are a direct incitement to violent murder of living people in the here and now, far, far beyond anything Rushdie has ever said or written.
posted by WPW at 6:54 PM on June 19, 2007


Despite what three blind mice says, I really enjoyed "Shame", it's probably my favourite Rushdie. Some of the others are pretty bad though ("Grimus" - ugh) - and "The Satanic Verses" is not all that great either. But what do I know.

Squid Voltaire nails the blasphemous* part of TSV, BTW - that much seemed pretty obvious when I read it.

(* not that I regard blasphemy as any kind of crime )
posted by pascal at 9:45 PM on June 19, 2007


inoculatedcities: My attack on you was not ad hominem. It addressed directly what you said. You made an asinine assertion in your over-zealousness to claim the civilizational higher moral ground (yes, freedom of speech is an essential value, but devalued when correlated with patriotism/nationalism). People in any country could do the same by quoting plenty of elected officials in this country, not least President Bush, for their ignorance, for inciting crusades, etc. That doesn't make the criticizing person civilizationally superior. If that person believes so, they too are an ass.

I value 'free' speech. I think restrictions on speech should be very strictly limited, if imposed at all. I do not consider myself civilizationally superior. I do not go on about the values of this country or that, because it is not having a national anthem that gives me confidence in my values.

The freedom to say things is not about East or West, but about two principles: freedom from political oppression and separating religion from the state. Speech is heavily restricted in China. How come no one bangs on about the civilizational backwardness of Confucianism ... instead, Confucian values are considered great qualities out here in the 'West'. People are not allowed to proselytize in China ... where's the outrage on that, inoculatedcities?

Since you seem to think I misunderstood you, let me reiterate, using your own words:

We seem to be forgetting what a vitally important advance civilization made when (segments of) it sanctified all speech at the expense of sanctioned speech.

Notice your choice of the word "all" speech. To which civilization do you refer, if you agree then, that in your own, speech is circumscribed to protect individuals in some cases (e.g., slander, libel, etc.)? There is no legal entity that allows all and any speech.

What irks me is the 'us' versus 'them' reaction you had. It is misplaced. If you have already bought into the 'us' versus 'them' crap, you're beyond redemption. That you were irked by my--yes, I admit (and just so you know it was considered and deliberate precisely because it would sting) haughty and condescending response would lead me to believe you are not. And just so you know I can be an ass ... we all can ... and when we're called out on it, we should examine why.

WPW: I'm not sure how clear or direct Ejaz-ul Haq's incitement is, particularly once he has retracted his statement. He is not a cleric, and has no authority to interpret religious doctrines, so his saying that killing for a cause is justifiable, is little different someone who directs a military or declares a war to kill for a cause. I take that back: Ejaz is less dangerous--mercifully, he controls no army, not even a rag-tag bunch.
posted by Azaadistani at 10:03 PM on June 19, 2007


Also, please don't forget that as recently as March 30th 2007, the Chocolate Jesus exhibition was cancelled in Manhattan because of pressure from Catholic groups.

How did that come about in the great city of 'freedom' and this country of 'free speech'? Not one gallery has come forth to host that exhibition, in a city littered with galleries. Where is the outrage? Where were the protests to keep the exhibition going, in this bastion of free speech? Where are the accolades for the artist who sculpted the Chocolate Jesus? Anyone even know his or her name and/or gender?

But Rushdie's free speech will be zealously protected (as it should), because his opponents resemble savages and look menacing and hide their women in swathes of cloth. Writers will unite; awards will be given. He will get bigger advances.

In the end, it's a win-win situation for Rushdie: Rushdie economically benefits, and is resurrected as a hero for merely having kneeled before a woman who did not have the civility to properly mourn her own daughter-in-law's untimely death.

And a lose-lose situation for that Middle/Near East because it produces asses like Ejaz ul-Haq, whose speech should be ... um ... restricted?

Frankly, is this any different from what has been happening in the last few years? We know who the winners are and who the losers are.
posted by Azaadistani at 10:29 PM on June 19, 2007


Azaadistani: his saying that killing for a cause is justifiable, is little different someone who directs a military or declares a war to kill for a cause

No, that's sophistry. You wouldn't be happy with that generous interpretation if it was, say, Rick Santorum saying that the firebombing of abortion clinics was justifiable, or that vigilante attacks on American Muslims were justifiable, would you? State-sanctioned military action, however vile and unnecessary it may be in its specifics, is categorically different to individual actions of civilian slaughter. Not better, but categorically different.

Also, you're making a category error on "Chocolate Jesus" - national controversy versus international incident.
posted by WPW at 4:25 AM on June 20, 2007


"Also, please don't forget that as recently as March 30th 2007, the Chocolate Jesus exhibition was cancelled in Manhattan because of pressure from Catholic groups."

Yeah, the evil west.

But nobody got hurt.

Try bringing a bible to Saudi Arabia. Or have a woman there wear a Bikini in public? Or wear a T-Shirt with "Mohammed sucks" in Tehran?

Now let's see if someone gets hurt for using 'free' speech.

Anyone remember that historical comment the pope made some time ago (about violence and muslims) - and after some violent muslim protests a christian nun was shot?

How about those blogger in jail in Egypt? Or the forbidden Iranian Flickr group?

I take limited western 'limitations' any day over anything Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran or even Turkey has to offer in terms of open society and free speech.

Western society isn't perfect, but compared to almost anything else it's pretty awesome - and still work in progress.
posted by homodigitalis at 8:21 AM on June 20, 2007


'Sir' title sought for bin Laden to avenge Rushdie knighthood

A hard-line Pakistani parliamentarian and head of a religious political party on Wednesday demanded a "sir" title for Osama bin Laden, the lead of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, in retaliation for Britain knighting author Salman Rushdie. "Muslims should confer the 'sir' title and all other awards on bin Laden and Mullah Omar in reply to Britain's shameful decision to knight Rushdie," Sami ul Haq, leader of the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, said in a statement, referring also to the leader of the Taliban.

-----------

Also, please don't forget that as recently as March 30th 2007, the Chocolate Jesus exhibition was cancelled in Manhattan because of pressure from Catholic groups.


Calling for suicide attacks on civilians is in an entirely different league than applying "pressure" to an artist.

You can't turn on a tv today without seeing Jesus and/or God depicted all over Comedy Central & elsewhere in a variety of areligious, undignified or unflattering scenarios. With a few exceptions, most Americans yawn (mercifully) at this. No burned buildings, no suicide bombings, Holocaust-denying, or threats of beheadings. Hell, the "everday Jesus" angle is often pretty funny, and most in the West know better than to call for outright violence in response.
posted by deern the headlice at 8:31 AM on June 20, 2007


WPW: categorization is not an objective undertaking, but a subjective one. One can always slice and dice to one's convenience, and ultimately, everything can be shoved into its own category. What qualitative difference does it make if something is international versus domestic, particularly in this case? The question hinges on freedom of speech, not whether the incident is domestic or international. Speaking of sophistry ...

homodigitalis: Pointing out that the Catholic lobby was able to get a gallery in Manhattan to cancel the Chocolate Jesus exhibition is quite different from calling something evil. It does point to certain sacred cows that are not defended. Not sure how or why you confuse the two, but something tells me you see the world through childlike evil vs. good eyes ... Dubyaesque, if you ask me.

deern the headlice:

You wrote: Calling for suicide attacks on civilians is in an entirely different league than applying "pressure" to an artist.

Absolutely. But calling for attacks on civilians (whether they are performed by a suicide attack, a planted bomb, a tomahawk missile, or a 'smart' bomb to me makes no difference) AND then mandating your armed forces to carry them out is surely worse, right? That too in the name of Christianity.... so then, which country is more problematic: the one where millions of people democratically re-elected a man who announced a crusade based on prejudice and lies rather than a legitimate cause, or where one man gets up and says something outrageous and hundreds come out on the streets and raise fists?

Again, you conflate things that are distinct: has Rushdie been beheaded? Has he been approached by a suicide bomber? When I've met him at a public event he was without any security. I think you confuse things here. Rushdie is not Pearl and he is not Theo.

As I've said, the demonstrations were small and insignificant in the country where Ejaz-ul-Haq comes from. The vast majority of people there are yawning too. How does one man, or even 100s of angry people equal "most" in a country?

Frankly, the east is not attacking the west. The west is (and has been) attacking the east and has bases there. If you really believe that your civilization is peace-loving and beyond reproach, why does military expenditure in the West far far far outnumber that everywhere else? Where do most arms come from? Why are Western troops (US, British, NATO, to name a few) stationed in every continent?

Wake up and smell the (non-free-trade) coffee. There is an insidious power dynamic in the world, and you have bought into it. While it is unlikely that a MeFite can do anything about it, one should at least be able to take a step back and not get hysterical about things like speech alone to bolster one's prejudices.

If you care so much about human rights, how about getting Western/Christian troops to stay home. From every place? If you're so civilized, and hold your civilized ideals so high, what are you doing on MeFi ... go get your troops back and stop paying taxes that have underwritten a destruction of a country, a society, a civilization and that has caused the deaths of over a hundred thousand people. And for what? Cheap car-rides? That is hardly civilized.

To think in us versus them terms is the exercise of bigots and the intellectually bankrupt or the asinine. It is tempting to do so because the asinine Western/Christian media feeds us such crap the whole time ... I only engage in this exercise because too many Western/Christian folk truly believe that their civilization is more civilized. And for one who has lived in both, in some cases it is and in many others it is not.
posted by Azaadistani at 3:05 PM on June 20, 2007


You don't see any difference between advocating state action, and advocating individual action? You don't see a risk in the latter that half a dozen deranged people out of hundreds of millions might actually act on what is said - a risk that is absent in the former?

If an American senator says "Christian nations should, and must, attack Muslim countries everywhere", we can clearly write the man off as a reprehensible crackpot, admired only by a deranged minority.

If an American senator says "Christians should, and must, attack Muslims everywhere", the man's still a reprehensible crackpot and there's a very real risk of terrible random violence from the deranged minority who agree with him.

Do you see?

As for the rest of your rant, it's all "us versus them" thinking, which I hear is "the exercise of bigots and the intellectually bankrupt or the asinine".
posted by WPW at 6:15 PM on June 20, 2007


The difference between state action and indivdual action is that state action is much more dangerous and has always taken more innocent lives.

Name one war which has cost less lives (where two states fight each other) than one which involves non-state actors (where the two last for the same duration).

I do not buy into the state action vs. individual action distinction. To me it is a red-herring and used by the state-action lobby to its own advantage. For example, when is a struggle for independence then legitimate? What are non-state actors to do? I support states sometimes and non-state actors sometimes. It depends on the conflict. And I am honest about it. Most people and states do the same, but conceal their support for non-state actors.

Also, notice that when state actors act with racial prejudice, e.g., with the Abu Ghraib situation -- when the state creates a climate that promotes action based on racial prejudice, as long as it is the more powerful state, the state does not pay, but the individual actor does ... the state action vs. individual action division breaks down ... so I am not sure what the point of the distinction is.

You totally miss the point with my rant. It is a self-conscious rant ... precisely to rebut those who believe in a civilizational difference on how 'civilized' each one is ... it is to point out that there is no such objective difference. Each 'civilization' has its ugliness and each has its beauty. To think otherwise is folly, and frankly, hubris.

I assume, that by your failure to address any of my statements, you are admitting the inability to do so.
posted by Azaadistani at 11:52 AM on June 22, 2007


But I wasn't talking about the difference between state action and individual action - I was talking about the difference between advocating state action and advocating individual action. So you have completely missed the point.

I ignored the rest of your rant because there is little point in addressing it. It's an identikit anti-Wetsern diatribe, and you have made the fanatic's mistake of identifying all the inhabitant of a civilisation with the actions of that civilisation. I am no more responsible for the American president than you are for the Taliban. You would no doubt deplore the principle of "collective punishment" when meted out to the inhabitants of the Muslim world by the West and its allies, the whole Iraqi state suffering for the crimes of Saddam, ever inhabitant of Gaza suffering for the madness of Hamas, and yet yourself are guilty of the same vile mistake by holding all the inhabitant of the West personally responsible for the wrongs of the West, and holding all the Aermicans personally accountable for the crimes of the Bush administration.

The rest of your point is an urgent effort to whitewash the threat to Rushdie. Rushdie has no reason to complain because he has not actually been beheaded? Facile rubbish. Do you even believe it yourself?
posted by WPW at 9:13 AM on June 23, 2007


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