Is it a fatwah? Is it a copy of the Quran allegedly down the gurgler at Guantanamo? Is it some cartoon in Denmark? Time for Rage Boy to step in and for his visage to impress the rest of the world with the depth and strength of Islamist emotion.
Hitchens is talking about much the same thing as I was talking about a couple of days ago – this business of the depth and strength and profundity and vehemence of emotion, and the work it does – the way it impresses some people in the rest of the world and prompts them to reason backwards from the intensity of the emotion to the magnitude of the crime committed by the person or persons who ’caused’ the emotion. Look at Rage Boy: his staring eyes, his gaping mouth; he is clearly upset to the very depths of his soul; let us frown heavily on the source of Rage Boy’s rage, be it novel or cartoon or free woman walking abroad on the public highway.
The acceptance of an honor by a distinguished ex-Muslim writer, who exercised his freedom to abandon his faith and thus courts a death sentence for apostasy in any case, came shortly after the remaining minarets of the Askariya shrine in Samarra were brought down in shards…But what does “Rage Boy” have to say about this appalling desecration of a Muslim holy place? What resolutions were introduced into the “parliament” of Pakistan, denouncing such shameful profanity? You already know the answer to those questions.
Well…you see…er…Rushdie was living in London at the time! That’s it. He’s an apostate, and an Orientalist, and a leave-homer, and a neocon. Yes he is, don’t try to deny it! He’s a neocon, he is, he is! The people who blew up the Askariya shrine, say what you like about them but at least they’re not neocons. So of course Rage Boy’s reaction is not a bit disproportionate or just plain barking up the wrong tree, it’s a reasoned political analysis translated into a loud scream, and hence to be respected.
We may have to put up with the Rage Boys of the world, but we ought not to do their work for them, and we must not cry before we have been hurt. In front of me is a copy of this week’s Economist, which states that Rushdie’s 1989 death warrant was “punishment for the book’s unflattering depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.” There is no direct depiction of the prophet in this work of fiction, and the reverie about his many wives occurs in the dream of a madman. Nobody in Ayatollah Khomeini’s circle could possibly have read the book for him before he issued a fatwah, which made it dangerous to possess. Yet on that occasion, the bookstore chains of America pulled The Satanic Verses from their shelves, just as Borders shamefully pulled Free Inquiry (a magazine for which I write*) after it reproduced the Danish cartoons. Rage Boy keenly looks forward to anger, while we worriedly anticipate trouble, and fret about etiquette, and prepare the next retreat. If taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean living at the pleasure of Rage Boy, and that I am not prepared to do.
No, nor am I. If I’m going to consult anyone about how to live, it won’t be Rage Boy or anyone like him.