Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Salman Rushdie, Freedom from insult and Islam

“I wrote this biography of Muhammad just over ten years ago at the time of the Salman Rushdie crisis. For some time, I had been disturbed by the prejudice against Islam that I so frequently encountered, even in the most liberal and tolerant circle. After the horrific events of the 20th century, it seemed to me that we simply could not afford to cultivate a distorted and inaccurate view of the religion followed by 1.2 billion Muslims who make up a fifth of the world’s population. When Ayatollah Khomeini issued his infamous fatwah against Rushdie and his publishers, this Western prejudice became even more blatant.

“In 1990, when I was writing this book, nobody in Britain wanted to hear that almost exactly a month after the fatwah at a meeting of the Islamic Congress, forty-four out of the forty-five member states condemned the Ayatollah’s ruling as unIslamic––leaving Iran out in the cold. Very few Western people were interested to hear that the Sheikhs of Saudi Arabia, the Holy Land of Islam, and the prestigious al-Azhar madrasah in Cairo had also declared that the fatwah contravened Islamic law. Only a handful of people seemed prepared to listen sympathetically to the many Muslims in Britain who dissociated themselves from the Ayatollah, had no wish to see Rushdie killed, but who had felt profoundly distressed by what they regarded as the blasphemous portrait of Prophet Muhammad in his novel. The Western intelligentsia seemed to want to believe that the entire Muslim world was clamouring for Rushdie’s blood. Some of the leading writers, intellectuals and philosophers in Britain described Islam in a way that either showed astonishing ignorance or a quite horrifying indifference to the truth. As far as they were concerned Islam was an inherently intolerant, fanatical faith, it deserved no respect; and the sensitivities of Muslims who felt hurt by Rushdie’s portrait of their beloved Prophet in The Satanic Verses were of no importance.

“I wrote the book because it seemed a pity that Rushdie’s account of Muhammad was the only one that most Western people were likely to read. Even though I could understand what Rushdie was trying to do in his novel, it seemed important that the true story of the Prophet should also be available, because he was one of the most remarkable human beings who ever lived. It was quite difficult to find a publisher, since many assumed that Muslims would be outraged that infidel woman like myself should have the audacity to write about their Prophet, and that if they publish this book I would soon be joining Rushdie in hiding. But as it turned out, I was greatly moved by the warm and generous reception that Muslims gave my book in those difficult times.”
- the first few paragraphs of the Introduction to October 2001 edition (just after 9/11) of book Muhammad, A Biography of the Prophet written by former Roman Catholic nun Karen Armstrong.

Karen Armstrong was motivated to study Islam so thoroughly and come out with this biography only after the protest by Muslims following the publication of The Satanic Verses about two and a half decades back.
Soroor Ahmed in Two circles. More Here

Salman Rushdie is a third class writer: Justice Katju

Salman Rushdie is a “poor” and “sub-standard writer” who would have remained largely unknown but for his controversial book ‘Satanic Verses’, according to Markandey Katju, till recently a judge of the Supreme Court.

Katju, who is now the Chairman of Press Council of India, criticised the admirers of India-born author based in Britain, saying they suffered from “colonial inferiority complex” that a writer living abroad has to be great.
From a report in Hindustan Times. Here

Slamming the Jaipur Literature Festival's focus on the Indian-origin British writer, Justice Katju, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, criticised “so-called educated Indians” who “suffer from the colonial inferiority complex” and believe that writers living in India are inferior to those living abroad.

“Salman Rushdie dominated the Jaipur Literature Festival. I do not wish to get into the controversy whether banning him was correct or not. I am raising a much more fundamental issue,” he said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “I have read some of Rushdie's works and am of the opinion that he is a poor writer, and but for The Satanic Verses would have remained largely unknown. Even Midnight's Children is hardly great literature.”
From a report in The Hindu. Here

Islam emphasises on 'Freedom from insult'

Well, whether or not freedom to insult is a Western value, Islam has nothing to do with it. It lays emphasis on its exact opposite: the freedom from insult. 

It values human dignity, decency, and harmony in the society. The freedom of religion it ensures includes freedom from insults. While it does not shy away from academic discussion of its beliefs and showing the falsehood of non-Islamic beliefs, it makes sure that the discussion remains civil. In those discussions it wants to engage the intellect of its opponents; in contrast those who itch to insult their opponents are interested in satisfying their vulgar emotions.

Thus while its most important battle is against false gods it asks its followers to refrain from reviling them. (Qur’an, Al-anam, 6:108). It also reminds them to stay away from harsh speech. “Allah loves not the utterance of harsh speech save by one who has been wronged.” (Qur’an, Al-Nisa, 4:148). Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, who is being reviled by the scum of the world, taught Muslims to never let the low moral standards of their adversaries dictate theirs.

As a result of these teachings Muslims can never even imagine insulting any Prophet --- from Adam to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad, peace be upon them all. Even when they ruled the world, Muslims treated the religious leaders of non-Muslim also with respect – even during battles. In the Baghdad court Jewish and Christian scholars engaged in open discussions with the Muslim savants.

Needless to say they had not been attracted by the freedom to insult but its exact opposite. Freedom from insult is a fundamental value that assures peace and harmony. It leads to healthy societies. And Muslims are very proud of their impeccable record here.
A earlier post in Luthfispace Here and More by Khalid Baig Here


Mohamed Ameen said...

America may have more liberal laws but does not mean that it has absolute freedom if the word absolute is understood correctly

we are talking about the world not about America alone that holds about 6% of the world population

Even in the USA in 1990 numerous films, including Pink Flamingos were banned for obscenity resulting in de facto bans in parts of the nation if not all

it is undeniably true that artists, novelists and intellectuals in modern Western societies are now accorded a degree of freedom which is extraordinary and unprecedented.
What is too rarely remarked on, however, is that this freedom is enjoyed only in extremely restricted contexts not in absolute contexts

One particular area of freedom which twentieth-century liberals have fought hard to establish is that found in the modern novel.

But we can not however conclude that this story of reform indicates that we have moved into an area of unrestrained liberty.

For example many countries have the law of libel, a serious restraint on freedom of speech.

Sometimes the effect of this law is to suppress truths which should be told (Example in the US Hillary the Movie )

But no civilised, democratic country would ever consider simply sweeping the laws of libel away, any more than it would abolish laws against incitement.

Every programme that we watch on television has been vetted by guardians of public decency; where every film we see has been censored, and where the licence we extend to ‘art’ encourages us to forget that every ‘non-artistic’ picture ever published or displayed is subject to rigorous obscenity laws.

These laws express, in their selective prohibitions and permissions, a seemingly profound antipathy to sexual love and a deep and almost insane horror of some of the most ordinary parts of the human body, particularly when these are conjoined in some of the most ordinary ways.

There are laws in many countries on fight against online pedophilia,

Is it against freedom

Since the passage of Bill C-22 in March 2011, Internet service providers and other persons who supply Internet service, such as Facebook or Google, must report child pornography incidents to the police.

According to the criteria established by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children

Canada ( a part of your beloved nation) is now a world leader in the fight against online pedophilia.

Mohamed Ameen said...

One particular area of freedom which twentieth-century liberals have fought hard to establish is that found in the modern novel.

In most European countries this struggle has met with a great deal of success – particularly with regard to the use of obscenities and the portrayal of sexual love. We should not for a moment conclude, however, that this story of reform indicates that we have moved into an area of unrestrained liberty.

It may well be that in a certain compartment of society, obscene words are used a little more frequently and more fearlessly than they once were. But a moment’s reflection should suffice to reveal just how narrow is the ‘freedom’ which we appear to have won.

Richard Webster a well known international scholar and author was once an ardent Christian and later gave up his faith in God and became an ardent atheist.

His book A Brief History of Blasphemy and Satanic Verses severely criticize Salman Rushdie’s version of freedom of speech.

Would you dare to call Richard Webster a Muslim apologist. My point is that a person like Mr Doug Sandlin may be an atheist but he may defend oppression, injustice and persecution to any group or segment of humanity regardless of religious affiliations. What is wrong with that attitude.
USA is not fast becoming Hitler’s Germany because of the existence of thousands of such people.


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