Salman Rushdie

Stewart gave us a report on seeing Salman Rushdie at a reading on Friday, and I thought I would make it more visible. Hit it, Stewart:

He had a few nice obvious laugh lines like his reply to the question as to why he now lives in the States: “Well, you know, of course the real reason is I’m an enormous fan of George W.Bush.” Also, a somewhat unnecessary disclaimer that got the reaction he expected: “Let’s just be clear: I’m not in favour of Islamic terrorism. I mean, in case there was any doubt about that, that’s not my view.”

He mentioned his grandmother being “scary” and followed up with: “And my grandfather was the opposite. My grandfather was very gentle. He sometimes tried to be scary but he didn’t fool anybody. And he was – unlike me – he was very religious. I mean, he was a practicing Muslim. He went on the pilgrimage to Mecca, he said his prayers five times a day every day of his life. And yet, for me, he was then and remains now a kind of image of tolerance and civilisation and open-mindedness and culture.”

He was asked about an interview in which he was quoted as linking Islamic terror to a sexual fear of women and clarified as follows: “Well, it’s clear that Osama Bin Laden is not a feminist. The twentieth century – the twenty-first century might be a different place if he were. No, I think in a way, in this interview that was published, they – the journalist – somewhat oversimplified what I was trying to say. Because I was trying to say two slightly different things. I was trying to say, first of all, it is true, in my view, that it is a part of the project of conservative Islam to keep women in their place, in a very secondary and very sequestered place. And you see that from the behaviour of those cultures towards women. I wasn’t trying to say that that’s the project of Islamic terrorism, you know, but I’m saying it is a part of the mindset of conservative Islam. Separately I would say that cultures in which the central moral axis is between honour and shame, rather than, in the West, let’s say in Christian culture, roughly speaking, between guilt and redemption, you know, the morality of such a culture operates differently when it’s an honour culture and the force on the individual self of a sense of having been dishonoured is much, much more powerful than that phrase would mean to a Western mind. And its consequences in terms of action can be much more extreme. And I’ve been writing about this, I think, all my life. I mean, ‘Shame’ is a novel I wrote in 1983, which deals with a very similar investigation of honour culture. Why is it that in certain conservative Muslim families girls are murdered by their brothers and father because they had a love affair with somebody thought to be inappropriate? You know, I mean – to kill your child because she – to kill your sister because she – because she – kissed the wrong guy. You know, it’s a very hard thing to understand. So I was trying to say that this is a culture in which that very strange axis between honour and shame is somewhere at the centre of how people make choices.”

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