Sunday, October 5, 2014

From Fatwa to Jihad by Kenan Malik

Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, is perhaps one of the most controversial books of all time. Avid Muslims blame the author of portraying Islam and the founder of Islam, Muhammad, in poor light.

In "From Fatwa to Jihad", Kenan Malik chronicles England before the release of the book and its impact on the world post release. I had little or no idea about the controversy surrounding the book, it was flabbergasting to read about anti Rushdie protests in the heart of England, book burning, riots and murder attempts on publishers and proponents of the book. You expect such things to happen in UP, Kerala or Peshawar but to hear all this happening in so called civilized and progressive Europe is disturbing and worrying.

It made a sad story that Salman Rushdie who was a hero to Muslims and other minority communities in England became a villain overnight just because of one book. Rushdie was a strong critic of rampant racism in England and was a darling of the South East Asian community. Rushdie, who is regraded as one of the most gifted English authors of our time, reached infamous notoriety because of Satanic Verses.

The controversy surrounding the book reached epic proportions when Ayatollah Khomeini issued  a fatwa which stated that Rushdie, and all editors and publishers of the Satanic verses should be put to death. This was a part religious and part political move, Khomeini whose Shia Islamic revolution in Iran was quickly loosing steam, the Fatwa captured the imagination of both Shia and non Shia Muslims throughout the Islamic world. Making Iran the de facto Shia voice of Islam. Not only did Iran beat its rival Sunni factions and nations,it even managed to trump the powerful and exorbitant Saudi empire, who hitherto been working reticent operations against Satanic verses.

Kenan also criticizes plural societies where minorities are given a special status, in the author's opinion everyone should be treated equally, religion is a private affair and public display of religion is deemed odious. Once states start doling out subsidiaries and other financial help to institutions then the so called minority representatives get official spokesperson status even though the majority of the minority could be against them, Kenan argues that only political representatives should represent minorities and not religious institutions. Moreover, once the state recognizes and supports minority institutions than they have an added interest to prevent minorities assimilating with the mainstream. After the state explicitly recognizes the minorities as different from the mainstream, that religious identity becomes their only identity. Social, Economic and Political reforms don't reach the minorities as they are not treated like other citizens of the state. The state only communicates with them through the religious elders/institutions. The author argues the fallacy of this approach and cites several examples of its failures from alienation to seeping of fanaticism. I hope Indian politicians from all diaspora read this and stop seeing our Muslim brethren from a religious angle and treat them as any other Indian.

This book was an eye opener, its critical of Islam, racism and multicultural policies. I was shocked and embarrassed to read that an Indian Khuswant Singh might have unintentionally started this rancor.

Kenan commends Penguin, its editors, and Publishers on how they faced the fury of Islamists and under so match adversity still published the book.

Recommended  reading from me. The book cover is epic.

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