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Rushdie Fatwa Shows Weakness of Fundamentalist Islam

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.


  1. sx123 2022-08-14 09:27

    100% Amen to this article.

    Any religion or interpretation of said religion that advocates violence is cave man logic.

  2. John 2022-08-14 09:38

    I disdain most fiction, nearly all fiction. It follows that mythology is also strongly disfavored.

    Yet, “The Hero of a Thousand Faces”, by Joseph Campbell is a fascinating global survey of mythology, a study of comparative mythology. ” [It] analyzes the humankind from a mythological and symbolystic point of view to prove that all humans have similar core concepts written in them, such as the monomyth, which is a way of narrating stories that people from all over the world do alike.” – google note. It’s fascinating how ancient cultures that are widely dispersed and likely never met create similar myths and legends. And of course, when humankind is unable to explain something, the strongest lies are wrapped in myth, legend, and folklore and then guarded by high priests of a society. Sometimes these groupings evolved into clans, tribes, nations, and even cults.

    These cults and cultish beliefs are not limited to the ancients. The cult of trumpism, the cult of radical Islam / Christofascism, etc., stalk among us.

  3. Nix 2022-08-14 10:26

    Islamic Kool-Aid and Trump Kool-Aid
    are the same flavor.
    Useful Idiots.
    Usually when someone cannot compete
    mentally, violence follows.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-14 14:57

    Nix notes something like what I noted the last few days while out campaigning for Amendment D, Medicaid expansion. Opponents who took the time to express their opposition did not base their opposition on facts or evidence; it was all assumption, abstraction, misinformation, and partisan horsehockey. When I pointed to the facts and evidence indicating they were mistaken, they seemed to realize they could not compete and defend their ideas honestly but refused to cede the point. They just flipped through their mental catalog of easy assumptions and slogans and kept on duckspeaking. Luckily, no violence ensued.

    But violence is what we see from the Trump fundamentalists. They can’t win an honest election. They thus propose to do violence to the election system, to Congress, to law enforcement officers, and to voters themselves who refuse to go their way.

    If your religion can’t win on the merits in the marketplace of ideas, you need a better religion, not a gun or a knife and a bounty on the heads of great writers.

  5. buckobear 2022-08-14 23:45

    Went in a bookstore recently. They had a directory sign that said “Christian Fiction,” was that an oxymoronism ??

  6. All Mammal 2022-08-15 15:00

    Buckobear- I’d say yes. And add another oxymoron: that is ‘seriously funny’
    John- I remember learning in school that some of humankind’s myths are actually programmed into our DNA and some of the greatest writers and speakers and artists were able to tap right into it. A teacher gave us the example of Mozart writing Twinkle Twinkle/ABC song as a child and how we already have those tunes preprogrammed at birth. For instance, all inhabited places where children are in the world, the children have a distinct rendition of, “Na na na-boo-boo” the “You can’t catch me” ditty. No matter where, when, or who, the children will always sing those notes when they play. Now I am interested in reading the book Hero of a Thousand Faces. Sounds like it reaffirms what I learned in grammar school.

    It must be such a stifling, lonely place for victims of extreme religious states all over the world. Especially seeing the green grass where people are expressing themselves and singing songs about love. Run. Hopefully where you wind up doesn’t slam the door in your face. Otherwise, one hope is to indoctrinate all your sons with so much love and respect for women that the men of the future will insight a peaceful revolution. I’m sure there are other ways, but spreading the word of hope without artists is harder than Chinese arithmetic.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-15 15:22

    Buckobear—at peril of upsetting our believing friends, perhaps the word you’re looking for is not “oxymoron” but “tautology”?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-15 15:30

    All Mammal, your advice is sound. We must teach our children, boys and girls, to deeply respect each other’s right to adopt and express religious beliefs of their choosing. We must teach them that the freedom we rightly demand for ourselves requires us logically, morally, and practically to extend the same freedom to others and to forswear violence as a response to differing beliefs.

    Salman Rushdie did nothing to harm believers of Islam or any other religion. His art did nothing to prevent Muslims from maintaining and practicing their faith. Contrary to today’s disgusting assertion by the Iranian government, Rushdie did nothing to deserve or justify the violence committed against him.

  9. Curt 2022-08-15 15:51

    Or just redundant.

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