Fatwa against Rushdie: we are all on the target, by Pilar Rahola

It was February 14, 1989, on Radio Tehran. In front of the microphone was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, religious leader of Iran. The expectation was maximum: he was about to issue a fatwa of death. These were his words:

“In the name of Allah, we belong to Allah and to Allah we will return.

I inform all the brave Muslims of the world that the author of the satanic versesa text written, edited and published against Islam, the Prophet of Islam and the Koran, together with all publishers and publishers aware of its content, they are sentenced to death. I make this appeal to all brave Muslims, wherever they are in the world, to kill them without delay, so that no one dares to insult the holy beliefs of Muslims ever again. Whoever dies for this cause will be a martyr, Allah willing. Meanwhile, if someone has access to the author of the book but is unable to carry out the execution, he will have to inform the people so that he will be punished for his actions.

May the peace and blessings of Allah be with you.”

The result of that fatwa that ended with the word peacebut it was loaded with death—”it’s a bullet that won’t stop until it hits its target,” he would say prophetically. Ali Khamenei, It has been a long and tragic culmination tinged with violence and blood. The writer Salman Rushdie and all the publishers and translators of his work were placed in the bullseye of Islamist fascism, and, thirty-three years later, the result would be brutal.

The list is long, but necessary to remember: bomb threat to the Viking publishing house; demonstrations in English Muslim neighborhoods, with a public burning of the book in the city of Branford; incendiary bombs against English bookstores; large demonstration in Hyde Park, with explicit threats against the Penguin publishing house; violent protest outside the American Cultural Center in Islamabad, resulting in five deaths and 70 injuries; demonstration in Kashmir, with one dead and a hundred wounded; violent demonstrations in Bombay, with ten dead and 600 injured; Ayatollah Khomeini offers $3 million to whoever kills Rushdie; thousands of angry Muslims demonstrating in New York; explosions at two Berkley bookstores; assassination in Brussels of two moderate Muslim leaders opposed to the censorship of the book; large demonstration, with tens of thousands of Muslims, in the center of London; attempted assassination of Rushdie with a bomb that blew up the terrorist and blew up two floors of a London hotel; attempted stabbing of Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator of the verses; assassination of his Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi; attack in Sivas against Aziz Nezin, Turkish translator of the novel, 37 people die; shooting in an attempted murder of William Nygaard, the novel’s publisher in Norway; accusation of blasphemy (with a death sentence) against the Kurdish translator Barmak Behdad; and, finally, this Friday’s attack against Salman Rushdie himself, with a result that is still uncertain. The bullet prophesied by Khamenei has therefore reached its destination, and with it the will of Islamist totalitarianism against thought, humanism and freedom is fulfilled. Have been thirty-three years of repeated attacks against the right to think, to write, to publish, to translate, to readand during these thirty-three years, there have been many who have covered themselves with shame.

Rushdie is a symbol of the right to think, to write, to express an opinion, and for this reason he has been brutally persecuted by an ideology of evil. He represents the resistance against totalitarianism, he is his nemesis, and our shield

Talking about Salman Rushdie forces ambivalence, because you have to talk about courage, but also about cowardice; of resistance, but also of submission; for there have been many cowards who have been silent, hidden, withdrawn, denied, criticized and abandoned the cause that Rushdie represented. In a way, Rushdie is the metaphor of the shame of a world incapable of standing up to a totalitarian phenomenon, Islamic fundamentalism (islamofascism, in André Glucksmann’s correct version) that has declared war on us for decades. And before the goodness and stupidity of a certain progress raises the cry to heaven, I need the phrase: it has declared war on freedom. It is not a religious confrontation, nor is it between Muslims and Westerners, because Islamofascism attacks all those who defend the society of rights and freedoms, whether they are Christians, Jews, atheists, Buddhists or Muslims. Let us not forget that Muslims are the first to die at the hands of this fanatical and violent mob. I repeat, then, that it is the war of a totalitarian ideology that wants to destroy the entire charter of human rights and impose a tyranny based on cave dogmas of faith.

Far, however, from standing up to those who feed this fanatical ideology, many times the reaction is the opposite: get scared, lower your head and accept their rules. This is how terrorism works: it manages to restrict rights by scaring us. It happened with the Muhammad cartoons and Charlie Hebdo, and it certainly happened with Rushdie. His case was the beginning of many others and the symptom of what would come later, as he expressed it in a poignant phrase, following the 9/11 attacks: “The fatwa was the prologue and this is the act central”.

A prologue that becomes a complete metaphor, because even then Islamist totalitarianism achieved notable triumphs: many countries, such as India, Canada and South Africa, apart from the Muslim ones, banned the book; the WH Smith bookstore chain pulled it from its 430 stores; Canada banned the import and in the United States many bookstores also removed it; in Italy, the Rizzoli bookstore fired a reader because he had pretended to read excerpts; the ostensibly conciliatory Organization for Islamic Cooperation also banned it; and even more serious, the Vatican condemned the novel through the Osservatore Romano, validating the thesis of Islamic fundamentalism that it was a blasphemous work.

But the biggest shame of all still remains: the subservient and cowering behavior of the Nobel Prize committee, which, since 1989, has not dared to award him the Nobel Prize for fear of backlash, despite being the permanent candidate. Rushdie himself commented on it in an interview in 2017: “They will never give me the Nobel, for fear of the Islamists”. That is to say, far from fighting for freedom of opinion and conscience, and defending the right of a writer to write freely, the Nobel laureates bowed to the barbarity of a UN member country putting a price on the head of a writer and start an appeal to hunt him all over the world. In other words, the Nobel Prize for Literature is not capable of defending literature against a totalitarian ideology that threatens it.

And like the Vatican and the Nobel Prize winners and the bookstores and publishers and the frightened countries, it is also evident that the UN fails, a pompous and grandiose artifice that, when it comes to defending fundamental rights, is totally useless. Let’s not forget that, apart from persecuting writers, Iran is the main exporter of terrorism in the world and responsible for three deadly attacks in South America: Amia, the Israeli embassy and the Panamanian plane. And now he is responsible for the massive entry of members of the revolutionary guard, via Venezuela (with the entire South American left applauding), throughout the South American continent. Iran is proactively proactive in spreading its fascist ideology, while the nuclear race is culminating, and nothing happens… On the contrary, Biden still believes that he can be his friend. It is tragic to see how, when it comes to racism — in the case of South Africa — or communist tyranny — in the case of North Korea — things are very clear. But when it comes to totalitarianism linked to Islam, everything changes, and then the magic words appear: tradition, custom, multiculturalism. Crap! There is no other culture than that of freedom, and no god or ideology can be above it. When that happens, there is no coexistence, there is a slow, persistent and lethal submission. And this submission is largely to blame for a certain good-natured progressivist and idiot, who hears the word Islam and already drooling. Already put, they even give Creus de Sant Jordi to Salafist leaders…

When will we react? Right now, as I write this article, a writer remains in a very serious condition in a hospital, guilty of the crime of having written a book. His executioner persecuted him when he was going to give a lecture on the capacity of the United States to give shelter to the persecuted, and a few hours earlier he had written to the American PEN to inquire about refuges for Ukrainian writers. Rushdie is a symbol of the right to think, to write, to express an opinion, and for this reason he has been brutally persecuted by an ideology of evil. He represents the resistance against totalitarianism, he is his nemesis, and our shield. He is also the metaphor of a cowardly world that lowers its head before Islamism, fearful, frightened and submissive. Only the Rushdies will save us from our misery.

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Fatwa against Rushdie: we are all on the target, by Pilar Rahola