The Debatable Land #21: Rushdie Redux?
A new controversy over a "blasphemous" film about Islam recalls the Rushdie scandal
Hello! Here’s the 21st edition of my newsletter. As always, thanks for reading - and for sharing The Debatable Land with other people.
Christopher Hitchens used to argue that the modern world - or at least one aspect of it - began on Valentine’s Day in 1989. For it was on that date that Ayatollah Khomenei issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie, enjoining all good muslims everywhere to do what they could to kill the author. Rushdie was guilty of hurting feelings; his novel The Satanic Verses was deemed blasphemous and he, and all those associated with its publication, should fear for their lives.
This was not, as it happened, an idle threat. While Rushdie was given police protection, not everyone was so fortunate. In 1991, the novel’s Japanese translator was assassinated and its Italian one severely wounded; two years later an attempted assassination left the Norwegian publisher of The Satanic Verses badly injured. The threat, then, was serious.
Many people, including at least some who …