RE: Rushdie, Belief & Behavior

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri Sep 28 2001 - 16:56:21 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Rushdie, Belief & Behavior
    Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 16:56:21 +0100
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    Hi Bill,

            <Could you please explain further? I was under the impression that
    > Rushdie's "death sentence" was because of blasphemy.>
    Well yes, that was the essential problem. Opposition in the UK tried to get
    him prosecuted under Britain's blasphemous libel laws (unsuccessfully). The
    Iranian proclaimed fatwa produced by the amount of anger about the book,
    however, was nominally for apostacy. Here's a description of that from an
    article by Bhikhu Parekh on the affair:

    '... a uniquely Islamic concept with no analogue in other religions. The
    Arabic words riddah and especially irtidad, usually translated as apostacy,
    mean 'turning back' on Islam, forsaking it for unbelief or another religion,
    and convey the ideas of cultural treason or treachery and violation of a
    solemn commitment'. (1990: 698).

    However, the charge of apostacy implies that anyone who stopped believing,
    or changed faiths, was guilty of, effectively treason against Islam and
    Islamic people, going against the idea of freedom and voluntary nature
    inherent in religious belief as stated in the Koran (hence there's formally
    no concept of blasphemy in Islam (hence the capacity of the different
    strands of Islam to generally tolerate each other in the way that catholics
    and protestants historically never have, and still don't in N.Ireland). So,
    from the British (essentially Christian) perspective there was no such
    'crime' of apostacy. Rushdie himself said he never believed in Islam so
    can't have turned his back on it. The result was a diplomatic stalemate for
    years and years, with Rushdie living in hiding, and the fatwa only being
    lifted a couple of years back, a bit after Khomeni died.

    Parekh, B (1990) 'The Rushdie Affair: Research agenda for Political
    Philosophy', Political Studies, vol 38: 695-709

    For Rushdie's own views see his piece 'In Good Faith', in the collection
    'Imaginary Homelands' (1991).

    For a British muslim perspective see Modood, T (1990) 'British Asian Muslims
    and the Rushdie Affair', Political Quarterly, 61(2): 143-160

    And just for another ref on this interesting case look at Jones, P (1990)
    'Rushdie, Race and Religion', Political Studies, vol 38: 687-694

    BTW, in case anyone's wondering, I'm no expert on this case, but I did write
    an assignment on it when doing my MA, and happen to still have the
    photocopied articles I used as a resource, sitting in my office, hence the
    list of refs.


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