Farish Noor tells it

Our friend mirax sent the link to this splendid article by Farish Noor

I was on a BBC radio programme recently, in conversation with a certain Minister of a certain Religious Affairs Department of a certain Muslim country…But what irked me was the refrain of the Minister in question, who again and again repeated the same line: “A billion Muslims all over the world are outraged by this knighthood being conferred on Rushdie, who has insulted Islam and Muslims”.

Not exactly, Noor points out.

These were not spontaneous acts of public outrage but rather planned and orchestrated demonstrations calculated to have maximum mediatic effect. And what an effect it has had.

The reactivation of the demonised image of Rushdie has become a common tactic for Islamist movements worldwide, and it also helps that an overwhelming majority of the angered crowd have not even read his book The Satanic Verses, or any of his other works like Shame and Midnight’s Children for that matter! Now how does this expression of uninformed anger serve to improve the image of Islam and Muslims, one wonders?

Just what I keep wondering! I know it doesn’t work that way with Murkans – expressions of uninformed anger from Murkans never improve the image of Murkans. There seems little reason to think it works that way with any other identifiable group. (Elitists perhaps? Perhaps expression of uninformed anger improves the image of elitists? Shows they’re not such snobs after all? But then why are they elitists? No, it won’t work.)

When I hear the name Rushdie mentioned, I think of the same Salman Rushdie who was writing in the 1980s at the time when Britain was under the rule of Margaret Thatcher, she of the foreigner-hating-ways. For many a young Asian academic and student then, Rushdie was our spokesman, our voice of reason, whose powerful commentaries, op-ed pieces, public lectures, etc. warned of the dangers of racialised communitarianism in Britain. He was the spokesman for the downtrodden, the poor marginalised migrants, the minority communities of Britain…It was Rushdie who foregrounded and promoted the writing of Asian authors as English authors, so that their works would not be marginalised and relegated to the margins as ‘exotic’ literature from the Orient. Thanks in part of the efforts of Rushdie and others of his generation, literature from the Indian subcontinent and the rest of Asia has entered the mainstream…So in the opinion of this author at least Salman Rushdie deserves the knighthood he has been awarded, not only for his services as a writer, but also as a social critic, activist and public intellectual who gave many of us – foreigners in Europe then – a place and a voice. Good on you, Salman – We’re proud of you bro.


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