12 September 2012
Joseph Anton: A Memoir – Salman Rushdie
Headings below are my own.
Outside the school a cold wind is blowing. A single blackbird flies down from the sky and settles on the climbing frame in the playground. The children’s song is a roundelay. It begins but it doesn’t end. It just goes round and round.
There are four blackbirds on the climbing frame, and then a fifth arrives. Inside the school the children are singing. Now there are hundreds of blackbirds on the climbing frame and thousands more birds fill the sky, like a plague of Egypt. A song has begun, to which there is no end. When the first blackbird comes down to roost on the climbing frame it seems individual, particular, specific. It is not necessary to deduce a general theory, a wider scheme of things, from its presence. Later, after the plague begins, it’s easy for people to see the first blackbird as a harbinger. But when it lands on the climbing frame it’s just one bird. In the years to come he will dream about this scene, understanding that his story is a sort of prologue: the tale of the moment when the first blackbird lands. When it begins it’s just about him; it’s individual, particular, specific. Nobody feels inclined to draw any conclusions from it. It will be a dozen years and more before the story grows until it fills the sky, like the Archangel Gabriel standing upon the horizon, like a pair of planes flying into tall buildings, like the plague of murderous birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s great film.
Voltaire had once said that it was a good idea for a writer to live near an international frontier so that, if he angered powerful men, he could skip across the border and be safe. Voltaire himself left France for England after he gave offense to an aristocrat, the Chevalier de Rohan, and remained in exile for seven years.
Man was the storytelling animal, the only creature on earth that told itself stories to understand what kind of creature it was. The story was his birthright, and nobody could take it away.
Anis renamed himself “Rushdie” because of his admiration for Ibn Rushd, “Averroës” to the West, the twelfth-century Spanish-Arab philosopher of Córdoba.
Origins of Islam
According to tradition, when Muhammad came down from the mountain he began to recite—he himself was perhaps illiterate—and whichever of his close companions was nearest would write down what he said on whatever came to hand (parchment, stone, leather, leaves, and sometimes, it’s said, even bones). These passages were stored in a chest in his home until after his death, when the Companions gathered to determine the correct sequence of the revelation; and that determination had given us the now canonical text of the Qur’an. For that text to be “perfect” required the reader to believe (a) that the Archangel, in conveying the Word of God, did so without slip ups—which may be an acceptable proposition, since Archangels are presumed to be immune from errata; (b) that the Prophet, or, as he called himself, the Messenger, remembered the Archangel’s words with perfect accuracy; (c) that the Companions’ hasty transcriptions, written down over the course of the twenty-three-year-long revelation, were likewise error-free; and finally (d) that when they got together to arrange the text into its final form, their collective memory of the correct sequence was also perfect.
Proposition (d), however, was harder for him to swallow, because as anyone who read the Qur’an could easily see, several suras, or chapters, contained radical discontinuities, changing subject without warning, and the abandoned subject sometimes cropped up unannounced in a later sura that had been, up to that point, about something else entirely.
Each time the trading caravans from which the city gained its wealth left the city gates, or came back through them, they paused at one of the temples and made an offering. Or, to use modern language: paid a tax. The wealthiest families in Mecca controlled the temples and much of their wealth came from these “offerings.”
In the building known as the Cube or Kaaba in the center of town there were idols of hundreds of gods. One of these statues, by no means the most popular, represented a deity called al-Lah, meaning the god, just as al-Lat was the goddess.
He almost certainly encountered his first Christians, adherents of the Nestorian sect, and heard their stories, many of which adapted Old and New Testament stories to fit in with local conditions. According to the Nestorians, for example, Jesus Christ was born in an oasis, under a palm tree. Later, in the Qur’an, the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Muhammad the sura known as “Maryam,” Mary, in which Jesus is born under a palm tree, in an oasis.
It was also easy to see how the world into which the Qur’an was revealed, and the events in the life of the Messenger, directly influenced the revelation. When Muslim men were killed in battle, the Angel was prompt to encourage their brothers to marry their widows, in order that the bereaved women might not be lost to the faith by remarrying outside it.
It was evident that the ethos of the Qur’an, the value system it endorsed, was, in essence, the vanishing code of nomadic Arabs, the matriarchal, more caring society that did not leave orphans out in the cold; orphans like, for example, Muhammad himself, whose success as a merchant, he believed, entitled him to a place on the city’s ruling body, and who had been denied such preferment because he didn’t have a powerful family to fight for him.
the story of an incident that afterward became known as the incident of the satanic verses. The Prophet came down from the mountain one day and recited the sura (number 53) called an-Najm, the Star.
Why did Muhammad initially accept the first, “false” revelation as true? And what happened in Mecca in the period between the two revelations, Satanic and angelic? This much was known: Muhammad wanted to be accepted by the people of Mecca. “He longed,” Ibn Ishaq wrote, “for a way to attract them.” And when the people heard that he had accepted the three winged goddesses, the news was popular.
“Shall God have daughters while you have sons? That would be an unjust division.” The “true” verses, angelic or divine, were clear: It was the femaleness of the winged goddesses—the “exalted birds”—that rendered them inferior and fraudulent.
Writing the Satanic Verses
It was curious that so avowedly godless a person should keep trying to write about faith. Belief had left him but the subject remained, nagging at his imagination.
He had found an intersection between the private and the public and would build his book on that crossroads. The political and the personal could no longer be kept apart. This was no longer the age of Jane Austen, who could write her entire oeuvre during the Napoleonic Wars without mentioning them, and for whom the major role of the British Army was to wear dress uniforms and look cute at parties.
arguing with local villagers at Khajuraho who thought the famous temple complex with its Tantric carvings was obscene and only for tourists, rediscovering Bombay and Delhi, staying with old family friends and at least one notably inhospitable uncle with a new and even more inhospitable Australian wife, a convert to Islam who couldn’t wait to see the back of them and then, many years later, wrote him a letter asking for money.
Some years later he learned that Shame had even been awarded a prize in Iran. It had been published in Farsi without his knowledge, in a state-sanctioned pirate edition, and then had been named the best novel translated into Farsi that year. He never received the award, nor was he sent any formal notification of it; but it meant—according to stories emerging from Iran—that when The Satanic Verses was published five years later, the few Iranian booksellers who sold English-language books assumed that it would be unproblematic to sell this new title, its author having already gained the mullocracy’s approval with his previous work; and so copies were imported and put on sale at the time of the book’s first publication in September 1988, and these copies remained on sale for six months, without arousing any opposition, until the fatwa of February 1989. He was never able to find out if this story was true, but he hoped it was, because it demonstrated what he believed: that the furor over his book was created from the top down, not from the bottom up.
End of his first marriage
In 1984 his marriage ended. They had been together for fourteen years and had grown apart without noticing it. Clarissa wanted a country life, and they had spent one summer looking at houses west of London, but in the end he realized that to move into the countryside would drive him insane. He was a city boy. He told her this and she acquiesced, but it was a difficulty between them. They had fallen in love when they were both very young and now that they were older their interests often failed to coincide.
There were parts of his life in London that didn’t greatly interest her. One such part was his antiracist work.
But their biggest problem was a more intimate one. Ever since Zafar’s birth they, and in particular Clarissa, had wanted more children, and the children had not come. Instead there was a series of early miscarriages.
Trying to have a baby became a kind of biological roulette. Their luck had not been good, and the stress of all those miscarriages, all those dashed hopes, had worn them both down. Their physical relationship came to an end. Neither of them could bear the idea of yet another attempt followed by yet another failure.
And perhaps it was humanly impossible for Clarissa not to blame him for the end of her dream of a family of children running around her and becoming the meaning of her life.
Any long relationship that no longer included sex was probably doomed. For thirteen of their fourteen years together he had been unquestioningly faithful to her but in the fourteenth year the bond of loyalty had broken, or been eroded, and there were brief infidelities during literary trips to Canada and Sweden and a longer infidelity in London, with an old Cambridge friend who played the violin. (Clarissa had been unfaithful to him only once, but that was long ago, in 1973, when he was still writing Grimus, and although she was briefly tempted to leave him for her lover she soon gave the other man up, and they both forgot the episode;
He went by himself to Australia.
The thunderbolt hit them both hard.
Their three-year affair began the next morning and was the polar opposite of his long, calm, mostly happy relationship with Clarissa. They were strongly attracted to each other but in every other way incompatible. They yelled at each other almost every day. She took him out into the Australian outback and he, the city mouse, was awed by her ability to survive in the wilderness. They slept under the stars.
She moved to England but it proved impossible for them to live together and in their final year they broke up more than a dozen times. Two months after their last separation he awoke in the middle of the night in his new home, the house on St. Peter’s Street, and there was someone in his bedroom. He leaped naked to his feet. She had used her key to get in—he had not changed the locks—and she insisted that they “had to talk.” When he refused and tried to leave the room she grabbed him and, at one point, stamped hard with her heel on his foot. After that one of his toes lost all feeling. “If I were a woman and you were a man,” he asked her, “what would you call this?” That got through to her and she left.
Inspiration for his book
if, as a result of that appalling divine silence, such a man were to begin to question, or even to lose, the faith that had sustained him? Might he, in such a crisis of the soul, begin to lose his mind? And might he in his dementia flee halfway across the world, forgetting that when you run away you can’t leave yourself behind?
In February 1983 thirty-eight Shia Muslims, followers of a man named Sayyad Willayat Hussain Shah, were convinced by him that God would part the waters of the Arabian Sea at his request, so that they could make a pilgrimage across the ocean floor to the holy city of Karbala in Iraq. They followed him into the waters and many of them were drowned.
The most extraordinary part of the incident was that some of those who survived claimed, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, to have witnessed the miracle.
He didn’t know the beginning of the novel until a year later. In June 1985 Air India Flight 182, the Emperor Kanishka, was blown up by Sikh terrorists fighting to carve an independent Sikh state, to be called Khalistan,
Soon after he heard about this atrocity he wrote the scene in which Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, traveling from Bombay to London, are in a plane that is blown up by Sikh terrorists. Gibreel and Saladin are luckier than Neelam was. They make a soft landing on the beach at Pevensey Bay,
The book took more than four years to write. Afterward, when people tried to reduce it to an “insult,” he wanted to reply, I can insult people a lot faster than that.
But it did not strike his opponents as strange that a serious writer should spend a tenth of his life creating something as crude as an insult. That was because they refused to see him as a serious writer. In order to attack him and his work it was necessary to paint him as a bad person, an apostate traitor, an unscrupulous seeker of fame and wealth, an opportunist whose work was without merit, who “attacked Islam” for his own personal gain.
he saw this new book as a much more personal, interior exploration, a first attempt to create a work out of his own experience of migration and metamorphosis: To him, it was the least political book of the three.
And the material derived from the origin story of Islam was, he thought, essentially admiring of the Prophet of Islam and even respectful toward him. It treated him as he always said he wanted to be treated, as a man (“the Messenger”), not a divine figure (like the Christians’ “Son of God”). It showed him as a man of his time, shaped by that time, and, as a leader, both subject to temptation and capable of overcoming it.
“What kind of idea are you?” the novel asked the new religion, and suggested that an idea that refused to bend or compromise would in most cases be destroyed, but conceded that, in very rare instances, such ideas became the ones that changed the world. His Prophet flirted with compromise, then rejected it; and his unbending idea grew strong enough to bend history to its will.
When he was first accused of being offensive, he was genuinely perplexed. He thought he had made an artistic engagement with the phenomenon of revelation; an engagement from the point of view of an unbeliever, certainly, but a proper one nonetheless. How could that be thought offensive? The thin-skinned years of rage-defined identity politics that followed taught him, and everyone else, the answer to that question. Anyway, his Prophet was not called Muhammad, lived in a city not called Mecca, and created a religion not (or not quite) called Islam. And he appeared only in the dream sequences of a man being driven insane by his loss of faith. These many distancing were, in their creator’s opinion, indicators of the fictive nature of his project. To his opponents, they were transparent attempts at concealment. “He is hiding,” they said, “behind his fiction.”
Forty had weight. At forty a man came into his manhood and felt substantial, grounded, strong. On his thirtieth birthday he had thought himself a failure, and had been wretchedly unhappy.
After India became the first country in the world to ban The Satanic Verses it would also refuse to give him a travel visa. (UK citizens needed visas to visit India.) He would not be allowed to come back, to come home, for twelve and a half years.
Throughout the writing of the book he had kept a note to himself pinned to the wall above his desk. “To write a book is to make a Faustian contract in reverse,” it said. “To gain immortality, or at least posterity, you lose, or at least ruin, your actual daily life.”
to Mauritius on vacation. It was not a desert island, fortunately, so there was no “long pork” on the menu. It was his first ever experience of an “island paradise” holiday, and he was ready for a little lazy hedonism; the novel had drained him more completely than anything he had written before.
Friendships & family
Friends were the family one chose. Goethe used the scientific term elective affinities to propose that the connections of love, marriage and friendship between human beings were similar to chemical reactions. People were drawn to one another chemically to form stable compounds—marriages—or, when exposed to other influences, they fell apart from one another; one part of the compound was displaced by a new element and, perhaps, a new compound was formed. He himself didn’t much like the use of chemistry as metaphor. It felt too determinist and left too little room for the action of human will. Elective to him meant chosen, not by one’s unconscious biochemical nature but by one’s conscious self. His love of his chosen friends, and of those who had chosen him, had sustained and nourished him; and the wounds his actions had inflicted, even though they were justifiable in business terms, felt humanly wrong.
People also suffered from a form of chosen blindness. People pretended that there was such a thing as ordinary, such a thing as normal, and that was the public fantasy, far more escapist than the most escapist fiction, inside which they cocooned themselves. People retreated behind their front doors into the hidden zone of their private, family worlds and when outsiders asked how things were they answered, Oh, everything’s going along just fine, not much to report, situation normal. But everyone secretly knew that behind that door things were rarely humdrum. More typically, all hell was breaking loose, as people dealt with their angry fathers, drunken mothers, resentful siblings, mad aunts, lecherous uncles and crumbling grandparents. The family was not the firm foundation upon which society rested, but stood at the dark chaotic heart of everything that ailed us. It was not normal, but surreal; not humdrum, but filled with event; not ordinary, but bizarre.
BBC Radio by Edmund Leach, the great anthropologist and interpreter of Claude Lévi-Strauss who, a year earlier, had succeeded Noel Annan as provost of King’s. “Far from being the basis of the good society,” Leach had said, “the family, with its narrow privacy and tawdry secrets, is the source of all our discontents.”
The thinking of the central European intellectuals at Queluz Palace, and also the very different philosophy of the radical Islam whose power was growing so rapidly, both scorned the Marxian idea that economics was primary, that economic conflict, expressed in the struggle of the classes, offered the best explanation of how things worked. In this new world, in the dialectics of the world beyond the Communism-capitalism confrontation, it would be made clear that culture could be primary too. The culture of central Europe was asserting itself against Russianness to unmake the Soviet Union. And ideology, as Ayatollah Khomeini and his cohorts were insisting, could certainly be primary. The wars of ideology and culture were moving to the center of the stage. And his novel, unfortunately for him, would become a battlefield.
Here was the first proposition of the assault: that anyone who wrote a book with the word “satanic” in the title must be satanic, too.
Rushdie refers to the Prophet and his Companions as “scums and bums” (he didn’t, but he did allow those characters who persecuted the followers of his fictional Prophet to use abusive language), Rushdie calls the wives of the Prophet whores (he hadn’t, though whores in a brothel in his imaginary Jahilia take on the names of the Prophet’s wives to arouse their clients; the wives themselves are clearly described as living chastely in the harem), Rushdie uses the word “fuck” too many times (well, okay, he did use it a fair bit). This imaginary novel was the one against which the rage of Islam would be directed,
The only cloud on the horizon was Syed Shahabuddin, the Indian MP, demanding that action be taken in India against his “blasphemous” book, which he declared that he had not read, saying, “I do not have to wade through a filthy drain to know what filth is,” which was a good point, about drains.
[His mother said] “Don’t blame Allah for what these people say.” He argued with her. What sort of god could be excused the actions of his followers?
Didn’t it, in a way, infantilize the deity to say he was powerless against the faithful? She was adamant. “It’s not Allah’s fault.” She said she would pray for him. He was shocked. This was not the kind of family they had been. His father had been dead for just a year and suddenly his mother was praying? “Don’t pray for me,” he said. “Don’t you get it? That’s not our team.” She laughed, humoring him, but didn’t understand what he was saying. afterward jailed for his involvement in the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York, announced that if Mahfouz had been properly punished for Children of Gebelawi, then Rushdie would not have dared to publish The Satanic Verses. In 1994 one of his followers, understanding this statement to be a fatwa, stabbed Naguib Mahfouz in the neck. The elderly novelist survived, fortunately. After the Khomeini fatwa Mahfouz had initially come to the defense of The Satanic Verses, denouncing Khomeini’s act as “intellectual terrorism,” but subsequently he slid toward the opposite camp, declaring that “Rushdie did not have the right to insult anything, especially a prophet or anything considered holy.”
Rapidly, ruthlessly, the world of religion was setting the terms of the debate. The secular world, less organized, less united, and, essentially, less concerned, lagged far behind; and much vital ground was given up without a struggle.
Religious cults, large and small, belonged in history’s dustbin and he wished somebody would put them there along with the rest of the juvenilia of mankind, the flat earth, for example, or the moon made of cheese.
Demonstrations & book burning
There were perhaps a thousand people in the demonstration, and all of them were male. Their faces were angry, or, to be precise, their faces were performing anger for the cameras. He could see in their eyes the excitement they felt at the presence of the world’s press. It was the excitement of celebrity, of what Saul Bellow had called “event glamour.” To be bathed in flashlight was glorious, almost erotic. This was their moment on the red carpet of history.
He looked at his book burning and thought of course of Heine. (But to the smug and angry men and boys in Bradford, Heinrich Heine meant nothing. Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.) Where they burn books they will in the end burn people too. The line from Almansor, prophetically written over a century before the Nazi bonfires, and later engraved in the ground at the Berlin Opernplatz, the site of that old Nazi book burning.
the book burned in Almansor was the Qur’an, and the book burners were members of the Inquisition.
Fatwa & organisation
It was difficult not to admire the efficiency of his adversaries. Faxes and telexes flew from country to country, single-page documents with bullet points were circulated through mosques and other religious organizations, and pretty soon everyone was singing from the same song sheet. Modern information technology was being used in the service of retrograde ideas: The modern was being turned against itself by the medieval, in the service of a worldview that disliked modernity itself—rational, Aziz al-Azmeh, the Syrian professor of Islamic studies at Exeter University, who would write, in the following years, some of the most trenchant criticisms of the attack on The Satanic Verses, as well as some of the most scholarly defenses of the novel from within the Islamic tradition.
Here was a mortally ill old man lying in a darkened room. Here was his son telling him about Muslims shot dead in India and Pakistan. There is a book that caused this, the son told the old man, a book that is against Islam. A few hours later the son arrived at the offices of Iranian television with a document in his hand. A fatwa or edict was usually a formal document, signed and witnessed and given under seal, but this was just a piece of paper bearing a typewritten text. Nobody ever saw the formal document, if one existed, but the son of the mortally ill old man said this was his father’s edict and nobody was disposed to argue with him. The piece of paper was handed to the station newsreader and he began to read.
This was when another harsh truth was explained: It was up to him to find places to stay.
the so-called World Writers’ Statement was published to support him, signed by thousands of writers.
The novel had by now also been banned in Syria, Lebanon, Kenya, Brunei, Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, and across the Arab world.
More bookstores were firebombed—Collet’s and Dillons in London, Abbey’s in Sydney, Australia. More libraries refused to stock the book, more chains refused to carry it, a dozen printers in France refused to print the French edition, and more threats were made against publishers, for example against his Norwegian publisher,
Muslims began to be killed by other Muslims if they expressed non-bloodthirsty opinions.
In Belgium the mullah who was said to be the “spiritual leader” of the country’s Muslims, the Saudi national Abdullah Ahdal, and his Tunisian deputy Salim Bahri were killed for saying that, whatever Khomeini had said for Iranian consumption, in Europe there was freedom of expression.
the need for blasphemy (the writers of the French Enlightenment had deliberately used blasphemy as a weapon, refusing to accept the power of the church to set limiting points on thought);
Kalim Siddiqui was on TV, just back from Iran, saying menacingly, “He will not die in Britain,” implying that a kidnapping plot was being hatched. The former pop singer Cat Stevens, recently reincarnated as the born-again Muslim “leader” Yusuf Islam, was on TV, too, hoping for his death and stating that he would be prepared to call in the hit squads if he learned the blasphemer’s whereabouts.
They talked about blasphemy being at the very root of Western culture. The trials of Socrates, Jesus Christ and Galileo had all been blasphemy trials and yet the history of philosophy, Christianity and science owed them a mighty debt.
He was sent a copy of the American magazine NPQ, in which he was glad to find an Islamic scholar writing that The Satanic Verses stood within a long Muslim tradition of doubting art, poetry and philosophy.
Chief Rabbi, your colleagues the archbishop of Canterbury and the pope in Rome have said substantially the same thing. You have all called for the prohibition of offenses to the sensibilities of all religions. Now, to an outsider, a person of no religion, it might seem that the various claims to authority and authenticity made by Judaism, Catholicism and the Church of England contradict one another, and are also at odds with the claims made by and on behalf of Islam. If Catholicism is “true” then the Church of England must be “false,” and, indeed, wars were fought because many men—and kings, and popes—believed just that. Islam flatly denies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and many Muslim priests and politicians openly flaunt their anti-Semitic views. Why then this strange unanimity between apparent irreconcilables?
supporting the right of tyrannical priests to tyrannize, of despotic parents to mutilate their daughters, of bigoted individuals to hate homosexuals and Jews, because it is a part of their “culture” to do so. Bigotry, prejudice and violence or the threat of violence are not human “values.” They are proof of the absence of such values.
They are not the manifestations of a person’s “culture.” They are indications of a person’s lack of culture.
The cliché, stand by your man, insisted she had to stay, but everything in her was screaming “Go”.
Maybe it would have been different if they had been more in love. But she was standing by a man she wasn’t happy to be with.
Freedom of expression
twelve thousand people signed the defense campaign’s “world statement,” Writers and readers in support of Salman Rushdie. The defense campaign was run by the respected human rights organization Article 19, named after the free speech article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression,” the article declared. “This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” How simple and clear that was.
It didn’t add, “unless you upset someone, especially someone who is willing to resort to violence.” It didn’t say, “unless religious leaders decree otherwise and order assassinations.”
free society was not placid but turbulent. The bazaar of conflicting views was the place where freedom rang.
The love of the art of literature was a thing impossible to explain to his adversaries, who loved only one book, whose text was immutable and immune to interpretation, being the uncreated word of God. It was impossible to persuade the Qur’anic literalists to answer a simple question: Did they know that after the Prophet died there was, for some considerable time, no canonical text? The Umayyad inscriptions from the Dome of the Rock were at odds with what was now insisted upon as holy writ—a text that was first standardized at the time of the third caliph, Uthman. The very walls of one of Islam’s most sacred shrines proclaimed that human fallibility had been present at the birth of the Book.
Nothing was perfect on earth that depended on human beings. The Book was orally transmitted around the Muslim world and in the early tenth century there were more than seven variant texts extant. The text prepared and authorized by al-Azhar in the 1920s followed one of these seven variations. The idea that there existed an ur-text, the perfect and immutable word of God, was simply inaccurate. History and architecture did not lie, even if novelists might.
“The Trap of Wanting to Be Loved”
Thanks to Zafar, he had grown fond of Mario the plumber and his brother Luigi, and sometimes Super Mario World felt like a happy alternative to the one he lived in the rest of the time.
His mother had survived decades of marriage to his angry, disappointed, alcoholic father by developing what she called a “forgettery” instead of a memory. She woke up every day and forgot the day before. He, too, seemed to lack a memory for trouble, and woke up remembering only what he yearned for. But he did not act upon his yearning. She had left for America and that was for the best.
He was a man in need of hugs and embraces and that evening he received plenty of them. He was glad his friends were huggers and kissers. But he saw himself reflected in their eyes and understood that he was in bad shape.
On July 22, 1990, the British Board of Film Classification refused International Gorillay a certificate, on the fairly self-evident grounds that it was libelous (and because the BBFC feared that if it were to license the film and the real Rushdie were to sue for defamation, the board could be accused of having become party to the libel, and could therefore be sued for damages as well). This placed the real Rushdie in something of a quandary. He was fighting a battle for free speech and yet he was being defended, in this case, by an act of censorship. On the other hand the film was nasty piece of work. In the end he wrote a letter to the BBFC formally giving up his right of legal recourse, assuring the board that he would pursue neither the filmmaker nor the board itself in the courts, and that he did not wish to be accorded “the dubious protection of censorship.” The film should be shown so that it could be seen for the “distorted, incompetent piece of trash that it is.” On August 17, as a direct result of his intervention, the board unanimously voted to license the film; whereupon, in spite of all the producer’s efforts to promote it, it immediately sank without trace, because it was a rotten movie, and no matter what its intended audience may have thought about “Rushdie” or even Rushdie, they were too wise to throw their money away on tickets for a dreadful film. It was, for him, an object lesson in the importance of the “better out than in” free speech argument—that it was better to allow even the most reprehensible speech than to sweep it under the carpet, better to publicly contest and perhaps deride what was loathsome than to give it the glamour of taboo, and that, for the most part, people could be trusted to tell the good from the bad. If International Gorillay had been banned, it would have become the hottest of hot videos and in the parlors of Bradford and Whitechapel young Muslim men would have gathered behind closed drapes to rejoice in the frying of the apostate. Out in the open, subjected to the judgment of the market, it shriveled like a vampire in sunlight, and was gone.
Love never came at you from the direction you were looking in. It crept up on you and whacked you behind the ear.
Her interest in him was unfathomable and mysterious. It was always women who chose, he thought, and men’s role was to thank their lucky stars.
They were becoming closer by the day. “I’m scared,” she told him, “because I’ve become too vulnerable to you.” He did his best to reassure her. I love you like mad and I’m not going to let you go. She feared that he was only with her faute de mieux, that when the threats ended he would go to America and abandon her.
He had told her of his love of New York City and his dream of living there in freedom one day. He, whose life had been a series of uprootings (which he would try to redefine as “multiple rootings”), did not understand how profoundly English she was, how deep her roots went.
At night he heard “I love you” but the days were shouting “Die”.
looking for the words he could say—the words that would be possible for him to say—that might break the impasse. They went for a long walk along the lush green Doone Valley and as they walked he argued with himself. Maybe he could make a statement of belonging to the culture of Islam rather than the faith. There were nonreligious, secular Jews, after all; perhaps he could argue for a kind of secular membership of a Muslim community of tradition and knowledge. He was after all from an Indian Muslim family. That was the truth.
He agreed with Bill and the essay went in under the title “Why I Am a Muslim.” For the rest of his life he would never see a hardcover copy of Imaginary Homelands without feeling a knife of embarrassment and regret.
He needed to understand that there were people who would never love him. No matter how carefully he explained his work or clarified his intentions in creating it, they would not love him. The unreasoning mind, driven by the doubt-free absolutes of faith, could not be convinced by reason. Those who had demonized him would never say, “Oh, look, he’s not a demon after all.” He needed to understand that this was all right. He didn’t like those people either. As long as he was clear about what he had written and said, as long as he felt good about his own work and public positions, he could stand being disliked.
He put in a request to go quietly to France for a brief vacation but the French didn’t want him on their soil.
Japan’s Pakistan Association did not remain silent. It rejoiced. “Today we have been congratulating each other,” it said in a statement. “God made sure that Igarashi got what he deserved. Everyone was really happy.”
Freedom of expression
Dear Religion, Can I raise... [location 5096 / 10250]
Dear Reader, Thank you for your kind words about my work. May I make the elementary point that the freedom to write is closely related to the freedom to read, and not have your reading selected, vetted and censored for you by any priesthood or Outraged Community?
Since when was a work of art defined by the people who didn’t like it? The value of art lies in the love it engenders, not the hatred. It’s love that makes books last. Please keep reading.
Picco gave him a piece of advice he would always remember. “The trouble with negotiating such a deal,” Picco said, “is that you spend a lot of time waiting for the train to arrive at the station, but you don’t know at which station it will arrive. The art of the negotiation is to be standing at as many stations as possible, so that when the train arrives, you are there.”
There were protests and statements in his support all over the world that day. In France seventeen million people watched a TV interview he had recorded: the largest audience ever measured in France for a program other than the main evening news.
Ah, so, having made trouble, he opposed the trouble that came at him in return, and wanted the world’s leaders to defend his right to be a troublemaker.
Something new was happening here: the growth of a new intolerance. It was spreading across the surface of the earth, but nobody wanted to know. A new word had been created to help the blind remain blind: Islamophobia. To criticize the militant stridency of this religion in its contemporary incarnation was to be a bigot. A phobic person was extreme and irrational in his views, and so the fault lay with such persons and not with the belief system that boasted over one billion followers worldwide. One billion believers could not be wrong, therefore the critics must be the ones foaming at the mouth. When, he wanted to know, did it become irrational to dislike religion, any religion, even to dislike it vehemently? When did reason get redescribed as unreason? When were the fairy stories of the superstitious placed above criticism, beyond satire? A religion was not a race. It was an idea, and ideas stood (or fell) because they were strong enough (or too weak) to withstand criticism, not because they were shielded from it. Strong ideas welcomed dissent. “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill,” wrote Edmund Burke. “Our antagonist is our helper.” Only the weak and the authoritarian turned away from their opponents and called them names and sometimes wished to do them harm. It was Islam that had changed, not people like himself, it was Islam that had become phobic of a very wide range of ideas, behaviors, and things.
he would fall in love with the Nordic peoples because of their adherence to the highest principles of freedom. Even their airlines had morals and carried him without argument.
Ayatollah Sanei of the 15 Khordad Foundation increased the bounty money to include “expenses.” (Keep your receipts, assassins, you can reclaim that business lunch.)
During the worst excesses of Soviet Communism, he argued, Western Marxists had tried to distance “actually existing Socialism” from the True Faith, Karl Marx’s vision of equality and justice. But when the USSR collapsed, and it became plain that “actually existing Socialism” had fatally polluted Marxism in the eyes of all those who had helped bring the despots down, it was no longer possible to believe in a True Faith untainted by the crimes of the real world. Now, as Islamic states forged new tyrannies, and justified many horrors in the name of God, a similar separation was being made by Muslims; so there was the “actually existing Islam” of the bloody theocracies and then there was the True Faith of peace and love. He found this hard to swallow, and tried to find the right words to say why. He could easily understand the defenders of Muslim culture; when the Babri Masjid fell it hurt him as it did them. And he too was moved by the many kindnesses of Muslim society, its charitable spirit, the beauty of its architecture, painting and poetry, its contributions to philosophy and science, its arabesques, its mystics, and the gentle wisdom of open-minded Muslims
Actually existing Islam had become its own poison and Muslims were dying of it and that needed to be said,
We should all be free to take the grand narratives to task, to argue with them, satirize them, and insist that they change to reflect the changing times. We should speak of them reverently, irreverently, passionately, caustically, or however we chose. That was our right as members of an open society. In fact, one could say that our ability to re-tell and re-make the story of our culture was the best proof that our societies were indeed free. In a free society the argument over the grand narratives never ceased. It was the argument itself that mattered. The argument was freedom. But in a closed society those who possessed political or ideological power invariably tried to shut down these debates.
We will tell you the story, they said, and we will tell you what it means. We will tell you how the story is to be told and we forbid you to tell it in any other way. If you do not like the way we tell the story then you are an enemy of the state or a traitor to the faith. You have no rights. Woe betide you! We will come after you and teach you the meaning of your refusal.
Campaigns & life
Friends were telling him the campaign was becoming very effective and he was doing very well but he was too often in the grip of what Winston Churchill had called the “black dog” of depression. Out there in the world he could fight, he had taught himself to do what had to be done. When he got home he often fell apart and it was Elizabeth who had to deal with the wreckage.
But the Swiss government declared him an unwelcome visitor and said they would refuse to provide police protection for his visit.
Vargas Llosa had criticized Salman for being too left-wing, Eco had criticized Mario for being too right-wing, and Salman had criticized Eco’s writing, but when they met they got on famously. The Three Musketeers performed successfully in Paris, London and New York.)
He met Hitch and Carol’s daughter, Laura Antonia, for the first time and was asked to be an “ungodparent.” He agreed at once.
The year of political campaigning had prepared him for the question. When you’re the Supplicant, you must always know what you want from the meeting, he had learned, and always ask them for something that is in their power to give.
One hundred Arab and Muslim writers jointly published a book of essays written in many languages and published in French, Pour Rushdie, to defend freedom of speech. One hundred writers who mostly understood what he had been talking about, who came from the world out of which his book had been born, and who, even when they didn’t like what he said, were willing to defend, as Voltaire would have defended, his right to say it. With him the prophetic gesture has been opened up to the four winds of the imaginary, wrote the book’s editors, and then came the cavalcade of the great and small voices of the Arab world.
From the Syrian poet Adonis: Truth is not the sword / Nor the hand that holds it. And Mohammad Arkoun of Algeria: I would like to see The Satanic Verses made available to all Muslims in order that they might be able to reflect in a more modern fashion on the cognitive status of revelation.
And Rabah Belamri of Algeria: The Rushdie Affair has very clearly revealed to the entire world that Islam … has now demonstrated its incapacity to undergo with impunity any serious kind of examination.
In Norway the writers’ union announced that it would invite him to be its guest of honor at its annual conference in Stavanger. The head of the local Muslim association, Ibrahim Yildiz, immediately said that if Rushdie came to Stavanger he would kill him. “If I can find the weapons and have the opportunity, I will not let him go.”
In the Algeria session he made his argument that Islam itself, Actually Existing Islam, could not be exonerated from the crimes done in its name. Derrida disagreed. The “rage of Islam” was driven not by Islam but by the misdeeds of the West. Ideology had nothing to do with it. It was a question of power.
The French Muslims actually supported free speech and freedom of conscience! In Britain of course we still have Sacranie and Siddiqui and the Bradford clowns, so there are plenty of laughs. And in Kuwait an imam wants to ban the “blasphemous” Barbie doll.
An Egyptian magazine published parts of The Satanic Verses alongside banned work by Naguib Mahfouz and demanded that religious authorities be deprived of the right to say what may or may not be read in Egypt. By the way, Tantawi, the grand mufti of Egypt, has come out against the fatwa.
King Hassan of Morocco said nobody had the right to declare people infidels or launch fatwas or jihads against them.
The Moor’s Last Sigh almost from the beginning. Moor Zogoiby’s graveyard requiem for himself: I’ll lay me down upon this graven stone, lay my head beneath these letters RIP, and close my eyes, according to my family’s old practice of falling asleep in times of trouble, and hope to awaken, renewed and joyful, into a better time.
Human life was rarely shapely, only intermittently meaningful, its clumsiness the inevitable consequence of the victory of content over form, of what and when over how and why. Yet with the passage of time he became more and more determined to shape his story toward the ending everyone refused to believe in, in which he and his loved ones could move beyond a discourse of risk and safety into a future free of danger in which “risk” became once again a word for creative daring and “safe” was the way you felt when you were surrounded by love.
Uma—he called Aoi “a better woman whom he loved less”—was really a comparison of herself and Marianne. He had to talk for an hour to persuade her that this was not so, that if she wanted to find herself in the novel she should look at the writing, at the tenderness and lovingness there, which was what he had learned from being with her, and which was her true mark on the book. He was telling the truth. But when he had told it he felt that he had diminished the novel, because he had once again been forced to explain his work and its motives. The joy of finishing was a little dimmed, and he began to fear that people would be able to read the book only as a coded version of his life.
When they crossed the international date line his brain gave up. You could have told him it was four-thirty last Tuesday and he would have believed you. The date line was so bewildering that time crumbled in your hands like stale bread and you could say anything about it and people would say okay, sure, why not. The date line revealed time as a fiction, a thing that wasn’t real, it made you think that anything could happen, the days could run backward if they felt like it, or your life could unspool like a reel of film spilling crazily onto the floor from a broken projector.
Caroline Lang, Jack Lang’s brilliant and beautiful daughter, came to keep him company at the Hôtel de l’Abbaye one afternoon, and because of her beauty, and the wine, and the difficulties with Elizabeth, they became lovers; and immediately afterward decided not to do that again, but to remain friends. After their few hours together he had to appear live on TV, on Bernard Pivot’s Bouillon de Culture, and felt that the emotional upheaval caused by his infidelity meant that he gave a poor account of himself.
When he looked back at the record he had made of his life, he understood that it was easier to make a note of an unpleasantness than a moment of felicity, easier to record a quarrel than a loving word. The truth was that for many years Elizabeth and he had got on easily and lovingly almost all the time. But not long after their marriage the ease and happiness began to diminish and the cracks to appear. “Trouble in a marriage,” he later wrote, “is like monsoon water accumulating on a flat roof. You don’t realize it’s up there, but it gets heavier and heavier, until one day, with a great crash, the whole roof falls in on your head.”
because misery loved company he cheered up when he heard that.
His greatest imperative was liberty, and hers was motherhood, and no doubt it was in part because she was a mother that a life in America without police protection struck her as unsafe and irresponsible, and in part it was because she was English and didn’t want her son to grow up American, and in part it was because she hardly knew America, because her America was not much larger than Bridgehampton, and she feared that in New York she would be isolated and alone. He understood all her fears and doubts, but his own needs were like commands, and he knew that he would do what had to be done. Sometimes love was not enough.
SOMETIMES LOVE WAS NOT ENOUGH. IN THE YEARS AFTER HER HUSBAND’S death Negin Rushdie discovered that her first husband, the handsome youth who had fallen in love with her when she was pretty young Zohra Butt, was still alive. Theirs had not been an arranged marriage but a true “love match” and they did not fall apart because they had stopped being in love but because he was unable to father children and motherhood was an imperative.
The sadness of exchanging the love of a man for the love of her unborn children was so profound that for many years she did not speak his name, and her children, as they arrived and grew, were not even told of his existence, until in the end she blurted it out to Sameen, her eldest daughter. “His name was Shaghil,” she said, and blushed, and wept, as if she were confessing an infidelity. She never mentioned him to her son, never said what he did for a living or in what town he made his home. He was her ghost, the phantom of lost love, and out of loyalty to her husband, her children’s father, she suffered the haunting in silence.
After Anis Rushdie died her brother Mahmood told Negin that Shaghil was still alive, had never remarried, still loved her, and wanted to see her again. Her children encouraged her to get in touch. There was nothing standing between the old lovers.
The imperative of motherhood was, obviously, no longer an obstruction. And it would be a foolishness to allow illogical feelings of betraying the dead Anis to stand in her way. It was not required of her to live alone and lonely for the rest of her life—and she lived on for sixteen years after Anis died—when there was the possibility of renewing an old love and allowing it to illuminate her later years. But when they spoke to her in this way she gave a small, mutinous smile and shook her head like a girl.
In Love in the Time of Cholera, the great novel by Gabriel García Márquez, the lovers Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza parted when they were still very young but came together again in the sunset of their lives.
Negin Rushdie was being offered just such a sunset love but for reasons she never gave she resisted it. For this resistance, too, there was a literary antecedent, in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence: Newland Archer in his later years, accompanied by his adult son, sits paralyzed in a little French square below the awning and balcony of his old love the Countess Olenska’s apartment and unable, after all the lost years, to walk up the stairs to see her. Perhaps he did not want her to see him as an old man. Perhaps he did not want to see her as an old woman. Perhaps the memory of what he had not had the courage to grasp was too overwhelming. Perhaps he had buried it too deep and could no longer exhume it, and the horror of being with Countess Olenska and no longer feeling what he had felt was too much for him to bear.
She was frozen as Newland Archer had been frozen, the passage of the years had stymied her, and even though an expression of love seized hold of her face every time his name was mentioned she could not act on what she felt. It was more real to her without him than it would be if he returned. So she never responded to his letters, never called him, and never saw him in the sixteen years that remained. She died as her husband’s widow and her children’s mother and could not, or would not, write a new last chapter to her story. Sometimes love was not enough.
More than once the older children Sameen and Salman tried to persuade their parents to divorce, so that they, the children, could enjoy each parent’s company without having to endure the side effects of their unhappiness. Anis and Negin did not take their children’s advice.
Another woman with a missing parent. The pattern of his romantic life continued to repeat itself.
Elizabeth’s demand that they immediately have more babies, which he didn’t want, went to war with his half-realized dream of freedom in America, which she feared, and drove him, a week later, to New York City, where in a suite at the Mark Hotel Padma said to him, “There’s a bad me inside me and when she comes out she just takes whatever she wants,” and even that warning didn’t send him sprinting home to his marital bed. The Illusion had become too powerful to be dispelled by all the evidence that reality could provide.
She could not be the dream he dreamed of her. Her feelings for him—he would learn—were real, but they were intermittent. She was ambitious in a way that often obliterated feeling. They would have a sort of life together—eight years from first meeting to final divorce, not a negligible length of time—and in the end, inevitably, she broke his heart as he had broken Elizabeth’s.
In the end she would be Elizabeth’s best revenge.
Then he went to Paris for the publication of La terre sous ses pieds and she joined him for a week of intoxicating pleasure punctuated by hammer blows of guilt.
when he was in New York with her he knew that a new life in the New World was what he wanted; a life with her. But there was a question that wouldn’t go away: How cruel was he prepared to be in the pursuit of his own happiness?
It was clear to him at the time and afterward that these months of vacillation inflicted greater pain on Elizabeth than anything else. He tried to say goodbye and he choked. He tried to walk away and he stumbled. And as he swung back and forth he hurt her more and more. He went back to
London and the Illusion sent him emails of blistering desire. Just wait. I only want to please you. I’m just waiting until I can kill you with happiness.
he was left with his agonized self-questioning. The millennium celebrations were approaching and he was being torn apart.
Elizabeth was badly hit by Carol’s suicide attempt. “She was like a rock to me,” she said, and then added, “But in a way I’ve been my own rock ever since my mother died.” He hugged her to comfort her and she said, “Do you still …” but then broke off and left the room. Something wrenched hard at his heart.
End of marriage & illusions
At the end of a marriage there was no originality. The one who was ending it slowly dragged himself away, while the one who did not want it to end swung between sorrowing love and vengeful anger.
There were days when they remembered the people they had always been and found a way to be generous and understanding, but those days became rarer. Then there were lawyers and after that both people were angry and the one who was ending it stopped feeling guilty, the judge had to tell them that they should not be in his courtroom because they owed it to their child to work it out. These were not the people they truly were. Those people would reemerge in time, after the name-calling and greed and destructiveness had passed, after the one who was being left met the Illusion face-to-face in New York and abused her in a vocabulary nobody had realized she even possessed, after they worked out how to share their son, somewhere in that future after the war was over and the pain had begun to fade they recaptured themselves and remembered that they liked each other and that beyond liking each other they needed to be good parents to their child, and then a little imp of cordiality crept back into the room, and pretty soon they were discussing things like adults, still disagreeing, disagreeing quite a lot, in fact, and still sometimes losing patience with each other, but managing to speak, even to meet, finding their way back not so much to each other as to themselves, and even managing, just sometimes, to smile.
And what took even longer, but happened in the end, was the return of a friendship, which allowed them to do things as a family once again, to eat in each other’s homes, to go out to dinner and a movie with the boys, even to take vacations together in France, in India, and, yes, in America too.
It would take years for this to happen, and it would require his Illusion to stab him in the heart and vanish from his life,
Once she had gone away into the world of make-believe where she truly belonged, reality returned. Elizabeth and he did not remarry, nor did they become lovers again, because that would have been unrealistic, but they were able to be better parents, and also the best of friends, and their true characters were shown not in the war they fought but in the peace they made.
He was still living at the Bishop’s Avenue house when he was in London, sleeping in one of the bedrooms vacated by the police, but that had to change. “Let’s get on with this. I’m sick of living with you,” Elizabeth said, but she also said, “You know we could easily make this work if you wanted it to.” They fought and then she wanted to hold his hand and then they fought again. This was a very bad time. You don’t have the upper hand in this. You have created this situation and now you must face the consequences. And on another day, I still love you. I don’t know what to do with all this feeling. But one day in the future they would walk together on a beach in Goa, and wander down the route de Cézanne in France, and she would come to New York and stay in his home
And then there was another piece of crazy behavior from the real woman behind the Illusion, a quarrel woven out of thin air, and he found himself thinking, I’ll go back, I’ll do it for Milan’s sake, and he made the stupid mistake of mentioning that possibility to Elizabeth, who reacted with hostility, interested—understandably enough—only in her own pain, not in his problems. He tried a second time and then a third. But she was so hurt, so guarded, that she could not respond. And in the meantime, in New York, the beautiful woman who had him in thrall pleaded with him not to go, and finally admitted that everything he’d been saying was true, all his criticisms were justified, but she wanted to make it work, and she would. He believed her. He couldn’t help it. She was his dream of the future and he couldn’t give it up. So he turned away from Elizabeth again. It was his last vacillation, and the cruelest, the weakest. He detested what he had done.
And one day in L.A. he heard the news he had been awaiting with dread for some years. John Diamond had died. He buried his face in his hands and when the woman who said she loved him asked him what the matter was, and he told her, she answered, “I’m sorry you’re sad, but you’re just going to have to be sad until you’re not.” At such moments he thought he couldn’t stay with her for another two seconds.
But he stayed. He stayed for another six years. When he looked back on those days through the disillusioned eyes of his post-divorce self he didn’t fully understand his own behavior. Perhaps it had been a form of obstinacy, or a refusal to destroy the relationship for which he had destroyed a marriage, or an unwillingness to emerge from his dream of a happy future with her, even if it was a mirage. Or she was just too goddamn gorgeous to leave.
At the time, however, he had a simpler answer. He stayed with her because he loved her. Because they loved each other. Because they were in love. They did break up several times in those years, for short periods, and often he was the one pulling away from her; but finally he asked her to marry him, and soon after their wedding she was the one who left. After her exit Milan, who had been the ring bearer at the ceremony, asked him, “Dad, how can such a beautiful day have meant nothing?” He had no answer. He felt the same way. There were good moments, of course.
They made a home together, decorated and furnished it as happily as any couple. “I built it with you with love and a pure heart,” she told him years later, when they were speaking again, and he believed her. There was love and passion between them and when it was good it was very good indeed.
Freedom of speech
Then slowly his thoughts coalesced. “The fundamentalist seeks to bring down a great deal more than buildings,” he wrote. “Such people are against, to offer just a brief list, freedom of speech, a multi-party political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women’s rights, pluralism, secularism, short skirts, dancing, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex.… The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his worldview, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources, movies, music, freedom of thought, beauty, love. These will be our weapons. Not by making war, but by the unafraid way we choose to live shall we defeat them. How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.”
And he too refused anger. Rage made you the creature of those who enraged you, it gave them too much power. Rage killed the mind, and now mindlessness.
He chose to believe in human nature, and in the universality of its rights and ethics and freedoms, and to stand against the fallacies of relativism that were at the heart of the invective of the armies of the religious (we hate you because we aren’t like you)
Great literature went to the edges of the known and pushed against the boundaries of language, form, and possibility, to make the world feel larger, wider, than before. Yet this was an age in which men and women were being pushed toward ever-narrower definitions of themselves, encouraged to call themselves just one thing, Serb or Croat or Israeli or Palestinian or Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Baha’i or Jew, and the narrower their identities became, the greater was the likelihood of conflict between them. Literature’s view of human nature encouraged understanding, sympathy, and identification with people not like oneself, but the world was pushing everyone in the opposite direction, toward narrowness, bigotry, tribalism, cultism and war. There were plenty of people who didn’t want the universe opened, who would, in fact, prefer it to be shut down quite a bit, and so when artists went to the frontier and pushed they often found powerful forces pushing back. And yet they did what they had to do, even at the price of their own ease, and, sometimes, of their lives.
Other religions quickly followed Islam’s lead. In India, Hindu extremists attacked films and movie stars (the superstar Shah Rukh Khan was the target of violent protests merely for saying that Pakistani cricketers should have been included in a tournament in India) and works of scholarship (such as James Laine’s biography of the Maratha warrior-king Shivaji, which so “offended” that monarch’s contemporary admirers that they attacked the research library in Pune where Laine had done some of his research and destroyed many irreplaceable ancient documents and objects). In Britain, Sikhs attacked the Sikh author of Behzti (Dishonor), a play they disapproved of. And the Islamic violence continued. In Denmark, a Somali man with an ax and a knife, linked to the radical al-Shabab militia, broke into the home of the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in Aarhus, after the publication of the so-called “Danish cartoons” that had aroused the ire of Islamic extremists. In America, Yale University Press, publishers of a book discussing the case of the “Danish cartoons,” would be too cowardly to include the cartoons in that book. In Britain, the home of the publisher of a book about the Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife was letter-bombed.