Rushdie sparked calls for his own execution – right?

The flattering descriptions continue. The BBC says Rushdie’s book ‘sparked worldwide protests’. The Guardian says ‘The Satanic Verses provoked the ire of many Muslims and led to the issuing of a fatwa,’ and still talks of a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s ‘execution,’ still says the book was ‘immediately condemned by the Islamic world’ (it’s hard to know what that last phrase even means – it sounds quite surreal). On BBC World News last night a reporter said Rushdie ‘affronted Muslim values’ by writing the book. Horrible, toadying stuff.

Lisa Appignanesi gives Priyamvada Gopal one in the eye though.

During the dark years of the Fatwa, Rushdie lent his fame to help less well-known writers around the world who suffered similar fates or found themselves persecuted either by states or religious hierarchies for their work. As a vice-president of English Pen, the world association of writers, and for some years president of American Pen, he worked indefatigably for the cause of free expression, joining with us here to combat the worst excesses of the government’s “religious hatred” legislation. Perhaps in awarding him this honour, the government has also come to recognise the crucial importance of a freedom which underpins so many others. Rushdie’s “services to literature” also extend to a singular generosity in helping young, and particularly Asian, writers make their way in what is often a difficult literary marketplace.

Universal values, universal liberal values, not western, not European, not white. Universal. Think about it, Priyamvada Gopal.

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