Rushdie on Today

I’ve transcribed some of that chat with Salman Rushdie on ‘Today’ last Monday, because he said several excellent things, worth preserving.

First he was asked his opinion of Muslim ‘leaders’…

Well for a start I’m not sure how much of a ‘leader’ these people are – it’s interesting – sort of a moot point about how many people actually follow them. But I think the mistake is to see these people as being somehow the voice of moderation. Sacranie and his deputy Banglawala have been very very vociferously hard-line on a range of issues for a long long time, and I think the Panorama programme kind of exposed that.

Then he said he wasn’t very confident that people like Sacranie would change much:

I think what really needs to happen is that the very large majority of British people of Muslim origin who don’t want to be just defined in terms of their religion start speaking up and creating a genuine voice which represents the majority rather than these kind of minority figures claiming to be…claiming to be important.

Today: But how does that happen? It doesn’t just happen spontaneously does it.

Rushdie: No it doesn’t. I think it’s quite encouraging that there are beginning to be voices speaking up saying ‘We don’t accept these leaders’ – there needs to be an organization but I don’t see it happening, but, you know, that’s not for me to organize.

Today: You’ve also been quite critical of the Prime Minister for relying on people of that kind in the fight against terrorism.

Rushdie [earnestly]: Yeah, I think it’s a very bad mistake – I think if you look in the papers right now, you have a two thirds majority of the British people objecting to the introduction of faith-based schools and yet that’s an absolutely central plank of the government’s policy. If he thinks that more religion is going to solve the problem, then not only is he in my view wrong, but he’s also seriously out of step with the country.

Today: Change has to come from within the Islamic community.

Rushdie: Yeah I think that’s right, but the point I’m trying to make is that even to describe it as ‘the Islamic community’ is in a way to go down the road of communal politics. It’s important to see that for most people of Muslim belief or Muslim origin in this country, they have a range of political and social interests which have nothing to do with whether or not they’re religious, and it’s that ordinary political agenda which needs to emerge amd be concentrated on, rather than this kind of faith-based approach.

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