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Mon 11 December 2017

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Rushdie’s supporters

The British Muslim community’s protest against Rushdie prompted a vehement response from sections of society, outraged that their cultural norms were being challenged. Professor Tariq Modood noted that “Indeed, the Rushdie Affair made evident that the group in British society most politically opposed to (politicised) Muslims weren't Christians, or even right-wing nationalists but the secular, liberal intelligentsia.” (in ‘The Place of Muslims in British Secular Multiculturalism’,

Below are remarks from two members of this intelligentsia:

The Koran is food for no-thought. It is not a poem on which society can be safely or sensibly based. It gives weapons and strength to the thought-police - and the thought-police are easily set marching and they frighten... You can build a decent society around the Bible... but the Koran? No. [Fay Weldon in her pamphlet Sacred Cows]

Muslim society looks profoundly repulsive... It looks repulsive because it is repulsive... A westener who claims to admire Muslim society, while still adhering to Western values is either a hypocrite or an ignoramus, or a bit of both. [Conor Cruise O'Brien in The Times in May 1989]

I gain the impression that few of the protesting Muslims in Britain know directly what they are protesting against. Their Imams have told them that Mr Rushdie has published a blasphemous book and must be punished. They respond with sheeplike docility and wolflike aggression. They forgot what Nazis did to books ... they shame a free country by denying free expression through the vindictive agency of bonfires... If they do not like secular society, they must fly to the arms of the Ayatollah or some other self-righteous guardian of strict Islamic morality. [Anthony Burgess in The Independent, 16 February 1989]

It was such racist responses that prompted Shabbir Akhtar to remark in a book reflecting on the Rushdie affair: "the next time there are gas chambers in Europe, there is no doubt concerning who'll be inside them" (in Be Careful With Muhammed, London: Bellew Press, 1989)



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