As if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on
Kenan Malik on the fatwa twenty years on.
It has now become widely accepted that we live in a multicultural world, and that in such a world it is important not to cause offence to other peoples and cultures. As the sociologist Tariq Modood has put it: ‘If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism.’…Today, we have come to accept that books do indeed cause riots and that therefore we must be careful what books we write – or what cartoons we draw, or jokes we tell, or art we create.
Which creates an interesting and alarming closed circle of repression. We ‘must’ be careful what books we write and what things we say – therefore we become critical of the people and institutions who demand that we be careful what books we write and what things we say – but we must be careful what books we write and what things we say – so we can’t write books or say things about our criticisms of the people and institutions who demand that we be careful what books we write and what things we say – and so on. We’re caught in a sinister spiral in which liberals want to resist repression and repressors want to shut the liberals up, which makes the liberals want to resist even more, which makes the repressors want to shut them up even more…
I don’t see this working out well.
Today, all it takes for a publisher to run for cover is a letter from an outraged academic. In the 20 years between the publication of The Satanic Verses and the withdrawal of The Jewel of Medina, the fatwa has in effect become internalised.
See Sherry Spellberg went in the wrong direction here – she hooked up her outrage to the repressors instead of to the resistors. Bad move.
Today, many argue that whatever may appear to be right in principle, in practice one must appease religious and cultural sensibilities because such sensibilities are so deeply felt. The avoidance of ‘cultural pain’ is seen as more important than what is regarded as an abstract right to freedom of expression…The lesson of the Rushdie Affair that has never been learnt is that liberals have made their own monsters. It is the liberal fear of giving offence that has helped create a culture in which people take offence so easily.
Yeah. Let’s turn that around.