segunda-feira, 25 de junho de 2007

Johann Hari: «Rushdie is not the author of his woes»

The reaction to the knighthood of the novelist Salman Rushdie is a case study of the new spitefulness. Here's the story. In 1989, Rushdie wrote a superb novel, The Satanic Verses, in the course of which an insane person in a dream says some questioning, querying things about a man who died over a thousand years ago. In response, a theocratic dictator said he should be butchered to death. Millions of people agreed that beheading is a legitimate form of literary criticism, and tried to hunt him down.
I'm no fan of the honours system. Seeing a hereditary monarch reward people by calling them a "Member of the British Empire" in 2007 makes me sad for my country. But if anyone deserves a reward, it's Rushdie - arguably our greatest living novelist, and a symbol of the glories of free speech.
Rushdie was trying to nudge his fellow Muslims away from a literalist reading of their "Holy Book" and towards a more reflective, independent form of thought. This is what really enraged the Ayatollahs: they wanted to retain their monopoly on interpreting the Koran.

Yet across the political spectrum, people have reacted by blaming Rushdie for being the victim of wannabe-murderers. "He cost us £10m!" sneers the right-wing press in unison.
Ah, the critics say, but he brought it on himself. He wrote things he knew were "provocative". George Galloway, completing his journey to the theocratic far right, has sneered that his novel is "indeed positively Satanic", and said "he turned 1.8 billion people in the world against him when he talked about their prophet in a way that can only be described as blasphemous."
This is exactly analogous to saying a woman wearing a short skirt is responsible for being dragged into an alley and raped. It is also flecked with a form of soft racism, since Galloway assumes all Muslims are excitable children who can only react to querying of the Koran with attempted butchery.
(By the way, literalist followers of the Koran - or any other pre-modern "Holy Book" - are ill-advised to get into a row about whose literature is more "offensive." The Koran has passages calling for the murder of Jews and gays, and instructions on how to beat your wife. The Satanic Verses contains nothing even a scintilla as bad.)
To all these people, we should ask - why are you more angry with a man who wrote a novel than with the people who tried to hack him to pieces for it?

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