Back in 1989, Iran’s terrorist Ayatollah Khomeini called for the assassination of author Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, based on fundamentalist Muslims’ perception that Rushdie’s book insulted their religion:
The book was deemed blasphemous and sacrilegious by many Muslims including over references to verses alleged by some scholars to have been an early version of the Quran and later removed.
These verses allow for prayers to be made to three pagan goddesses, contrary to Islam’s strict belief that there is only one God.
Controversially, Rushdie writes of the involvement of a prophet resembling the founder of Islam, Muhammad.
This prophet is tricked into striking a deal with Satan in which he exchanges some of his monotheistic dogmatism in favor of the three goddesses. He then realizes his error.
Khomeini and others insist he had depicted the prophet irreverently [Claude Casteran, “‘No One Will Any Longer Dare Offend Islam’: The 1989 Fatwa Against Salman Rushdie,” Times of Israel, 2022.08.12].
Khomeini’s call for terrorism against words drove Rushdie into hiding for years. Iran claimed the fatwa led to the assassination in 1991 of Hitoshi Igarashi, who translated Rushdie’s novel into Japanese. The Italian, Norwegian, and Turkish translators of the novel also suffered violent assaults.
Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie is the same sort of brittle Islamic fundamentalism that caused the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris in 2015. If your god and your faith can’t withstand a few scribblings from mere mortals, then your weak god and your weak faith deserve critique. The proper response to such critical scribblers is discussion, not violence. Even if the scribblers are wrong, you should correct them, not kill them.
But some 24-year-old thug stabbed, beat, and tried to kill the 75-year-old author Friday over a religious grudge declared almost a decade before he was born. Hardliners in Iran, including current Ayatollah Khameini, are cheering this violence. Decent human beings are not:
Jill and I were shocked and saddened to learn of the vicious attack on Salman Rushdie yesterday in New York. We, together with all Americans and people around the world, are praying for his health and recovery. I am grateful to the first responders and the brave individuals who jumped into action to render aid to Rushdie and subdue the attacker.
Salman Rushdie—with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense for story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced—stands for essential, universal ideals. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society. And today, we reaffirm our commitment to those deeply American values in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who stand for freedom of expression [President Joe Biden, Statement on the Attack on Salman Rushdie, 2022.08.13].
Rushdie’s injuries are pretty bad, but the best headline this morning says Rushdie is able to speak again. Once again, radical Islamic terrorism has failed. You cannot kill ideas you don’t like with violence. Celebrating brutality as a vindication of your god makes your god look like a devil or a figment of weak imaginations unworthy of human respect.