In recent days, there seems to be a deliberate and overt attempt in the western media to post articles on Muslim affairs, written by individuals who are well known for their bigotry against Islam. It is as if their ill-gotten fame for speaking foul against Islam and the Muslim world has made them an overnight “expert” on everything that had to do with either subject. Mr. Rushdie is one such novelist who has become a darling among the Muslim-haters (and/or Islam-bashers) since his publication of a blasphemous novel. His anti-Islamic views, no matter how silly and schizophrenic, are religiously published by the media moguls in the West, and then circulated in the many e-forums by faithful followers as if Muslims ought to listen to him. I wonder when was the last time he had visited any Muslim country and tried to observe matters from within rather than relying upon information that may not always be accurate and reliable information, let alone being outright hostile and biased!
In his recently published Op/Ed article “No More Fanaticism as Usual,” (NY Times, Nov. 27, ’02), Rushdie is sympathetic to Ms. Isioma Daniel, the Christian journalist, whose provocative article, as squarely pointed out by the Nigerian Christian President, was responsible for initiating the recent communal riot. In this, Rushdie naturally forgets about the rights of the victims of this riot, both Muslims and Christians. His myopic view ignores Muslim victims altogether, who were equally killed, looted and burned (see the Nov. 23-4, ’02 issues of the Philadelphia Inquirer). In his vocabulary, one obviously does not and cannot find the words “responsible journalism.” To him and his faithful disciples, it is all kosher to demonize someone’s religion, ethnicity and color, as long as that “someone” is a Muslim or a Black. He has shown how to draw attention upon oneself and later invoke the First Amendment or freedom of expression/speech to justify one’s crime of incitation to violence. Truly, the First Amendment and freedom of expression/speech have now become the much-sought and last resorts for all spiteful individuals é fascists, racists and bigots.
Rushdie complains about an Egyptian TV series, “Horseman Without a Horse,” in which he finds anti-Semitic content. I did not expect the show to draw so much attention from a controversial writer like him, who has earned his own share of notoriety through “cultural treason,” when he wrote “The Satanic Verses.” In this so-called fiction, he had no qualm in relying on distorted images and facts to demonize Islam and Muslims. Given the fact that no other author comes close to him in the art of sensationalism and polarizing one group against the other, it is so ironic that he should now complain about those who follow his footsteps. It is simply hypocritical!
Rushdie did not have problem offending more than a billion Muslims when he wrote that maliciously anti-Muslim novel which is considered the most offensive and repugnant book by all Muslims. To him the Penguin-offer and an almost certain inclusion in the Best-seller’s list of books in western bookstores (because of the notoriety the book’s content would evoke) were sufficient grounds to his writing such a novel, which is comparable in all intent and purpose to the other work é The Protocols of Elders of Zion é that he now dislikes. Commenting on his blasphemous novel, Prof. Ali Mazrui, the most prolific African political thinker of our age, rightly commented, “A real equivalent of comparative blasphemy would be in portraying the Virgin Mary as a prostitute, and Jesus as the son of one of her sexual clients. Also comparable would be any novel based on the thesis that the twelve disciples were Jesus’ homosexual lovers, and the Last Supper was their last sexual orgy together.” (Public Lecture at the Cornell University, March 1, 1989)
In his work, Rushdie not only cast doubt on the authenticity of the source of the Qur’an, he lampooned its rules and attributed fictitious dicta to it. Borrowing the offensive terminologies used by the medieval Christian West and its orientalists in their crusade against Islam, he belittled the character of the Prophet of Islam by suggesting that the latter was incapable of distinguishing between what had been inspired by the Devil and what had come from the Archangel Gabriel. He even suggested that the Qur’an was the devil’s work. Indeed, he gave the Prophet of Islam a name which he himself described as the “Devil’s synonym.” He epitomized Negrophobia, hatred of blackness, by calling Bilal, an Abyssinian companion of the Prophet é who distinguished himself as the first caller to prayer in the history of Islam, as nothing more than a “trash,” “scum” and “black monster.” He vilified Islam – a religion that set precedence in multi-racialism, some fourteen centuries before President Jimmy Carter tried to persuade his own church in Georgia to go multi-racial. Rushdie could not resist certain epithets against the Black men, which are so racist and dehumanizing, showing his real color.
It is also very interesting to note that Rushdie belongs to a group that takes pride in calling itself the “rational humanists” and “free-thinkers,” etc. (As hinted above, his articles are frequently posted in some of their websites.) However, this group has gained much unsavory reputation in recent days in its call for banning of the Qur’an, much in contrast to its claim for upholding the freedom of expression. This group, in its jaundiced view, forgets that the Muslim holy book (even if one, as an agnostic or a non-Muslim, were to reject its Divine origin) is itself a work of art. The Qur’an is the most widely read book in its “original” language in human history. The Qur’an is in a class by itself as a book that is recited by millions of believers, five times a day, in the very language in which it was first written é round the globe. For the last fourteen centuries there has never been a shortage of thousands (and now in hundreds of thousands) of believers who had memorized the entire Qur’an into their hearts, something that is simply unmatched for any work of literature (and religious text). For the believers, its literary beauty is simply superb and is unparallel.
Yet, the “Rushdies” (as Rushdie himself likes to call them) of today are on a crusading campaign to ban the Qur’an. They claim that the Muslim Scripture contains too many violent passages and is against other religions. On February 7, ’02, the Los Angeles Times reported that certain Los Angeles School Officials pulled out 300 copies of the Qur’an from the school libraries, because they claim that these copies contain commentaries that are derogatory towards Jews. If that were the excuse, why not pull all religious books from all the libraries, for all such texts have derogatory remarks against others? Qur’an is not unique in this regard.
A scrupulous reading would reveal that the Qur’an does not criticize ALL Jews or Christians. It only criticized some of them because of their wrong doings. The Qur’an has also praised many of them because of their faith and good deeds. Allah says: “Not all of them are alike: of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (for the right); they rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. (‘Al-i ‘Imran 3:113-115). Also: “Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth.” (al-A’raf 7:159)
In the Qur’an some Arabs are also censured for their hypocrisy and evil deeds. “The Arabs of the desert are the worst in unbelief and hypocrisy, and most fitted to be in ignorance of the command which Allah hath sent down to His Messenger but Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. Some of the desert Arabs look upon their payments (of charity) as a fine, and watch for disasters for you: on them be the disaster of Evil: for Allah is He that hears and knows (all things). (al-Tawbah 9:97-98)
Should such derogatory remarks against certain Arab people render the Qur’an as an anti-Arab book? This will be totally bizarre. Truly, a careful reading of the Qur’an will show that the Qur’an has no general condemnation of any ethnicity, race, color, religion or religious people. It would be a great disservice to any literary work, let alone any Scripture, to take a few passages out of their historical and textual context. Yet the Rushdies are adept in such selective quotations.
In the Hebrew Bible we also find many passages that condemn the Jewish people. Read the Hebrew Bible, particularly Micah (Chapter 3:1-12) and Hosea (Chapters 4 and 8), in which these prophets condemned the Jews for “swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery,” “for they have gone a whoring from under their God,” “who abhor justice and pervert all equity,” “they hate the good and love the evil,” and who “build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong.” Prophet Ezekiel called Israel, “the house of rebels and a rebellious nation.” (Ezek. Chapter 2) These prophets cursed Israel as a “useless vessel among nations,” and called for the curse of God to “send a fire upon [Judah’s] cities” and to make Jerusalem “a heap of ruins.” Similarly, in the Book of Deuteronomy (Verses 28:16-68), Prophet Moses warns the Israelites that God “will send upon you curses, confusion, and frustration, in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, on account of the evil of your doings, because you have forsaken Me” (28:20).
In the so-called New Testament, Jesus repeatedly admonishes the Jews for their hypocrisy and injustice, and censures them for the killing of past prophets (see, e.g., Matthew 23:13-39). Jesus says, “You serpents, you generation of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matt. 23:33) Further he says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.” (Matt. 23:37-8) He also addresses them as an “evil,” “adulterous” and “wicked” nation. (Matt. 12:39, 16:4).
Surely, these Prophets were not condemning every Jew of all time. If it is bad to condemn any Jew, then we should also not tolerate criticism of any other race or religion. If the Qur’an and its commentaries are to be censored then all religious books and all classics of English and other literature should be censored. All religious books and their commentaries have some critical or even derogatory remarks against other people. Jewish books have derogatory remarks against the Goyim, Gentiles (non-Jews). [See, e.g., Zohar III (282); Yebamoth 98a; Rosh Hashanah 17a; Perusch (78c); Maschima Ieschua (36d); Choschen Hammischpat (34, 22); Abhodah Zarah (22a), (22b), (15b), (26b), (26b, Tosephoth); Biur Hetib; Zohar (II, 64b); Kethuboth (3b); Zohar (I, 46b, 47a), (I, 131a), (I, 25a); Iore Dea (146, 15); Exodus 22:18-20; Psalms 79:6, 139:19-22; Deut. 13:1-15, 17:2-5; 1 Kings 18:19, 40; 2 Kings 10:18-31, 11:18; 2 Chron. 15:10-15, 19:1-2] Christian books criticize Jews, Muslims and worshippers of other gods and goddesses. [See, e.g., Acts 4:1-3, 4:10-12, 9:1-14, 13:50, 22:22-3, 26:9-11; Galatians 1:9, 1:13; John 12:48; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; 1 Thes. 2:14-16] Hindu books have derogatory remarks against Jains and Buddhists and against other castes (and especially the Sudras and women). [See, e.g., Manusmrti 5:147-164, 8:410-418, 8:270-272, 8:281, 9:14-18, 9:334-335, 10:50-54, 11:127, 11:136-139; Chandogya Upanisad 5:10:7; Visnusmrti 5:19-25, 5:104-5, 16:14, 27:5-9 ; Satapatha Brahmana 3:1:1:10; Rig Veda 8:33:17, 2:12:3-9, 3:12:6, 3:31:22, 6:27:5; Krsna Yajur Veda Taittiriya Samhita 6:5:8:2] Buddhist books have derogatory remarks against Brahmans and various other Hindu sects. There are thousands of books in American school libraries, even textbooks that have derogatory remarks against Islam and Muslims. So are the LA School Officials going to pull out all the books that have any criticism of any group of people or is this just a special case for Jews and against Muslim religious books?
So, when we discover the ugly crusading campaign of the “Rushdies” to single out the Qur’an, we cannot but entertain mistrust of them. Our misgiving is further confirmed when we see that, in their e-forums, bulk of the attack is geared against Islam and Muslims, as if one quarter of this earth have chosen a religion that is so appalling. And the disturbing thing (not to Muslims though who had long known the apparent hypocrisy of this pseudo-humanists) is that the western literary herd is NOT thundering to Qur’an’s defense, much in contradistinction to their invoking the First Amendment, artistic freedom and all that for their support of Rushdie’s defamatory, anti-Muslim work. What a difference! Truly, when push comes to shove, their true color is easily discerned. It is said that behind every anti-terrorist zealot hides a terrorist. Similarly, as I see it, behind every so-called crusader against Islam, lies a bigot. I have all along maintained that most westerners are unaware of their hypocrisy until put to the test (see, e.g., my three part article on Muslim Bashing and Need for a Dialogue, Op/Ed, The Bangladesh Observer, August 14, 15 and 17, 1998). Sadly, in this regard, I have not yet been proven wrong.
In his obsessed hatred of Muslims, Rushdie fails to sense Muslim outrage. He thinks that racists, male supremacists, fanatics and violence junkies have hijacked Islam. It is amusing that Rushdie should talk about racism, while he has shown his true racist self in his novel. If Muslims were male supremacists, Muslims, in the recent past, would not have elected four females into the highest elected positions in four of the most populous Muslim countries é Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey. (He might like to advise Americans, the most populous Christian country, to follow the Muslim example.) If Muslims were fanatics, they would not have elected a Christian as the head of the state in Nigeria (and not the first time either in that country) where they enjoy a comfortable majority over Christian minorities. Muslim majority has been ruled by Christian Maronite Presidents (with virtually all powers) in the Lebanon for more than half a century. If Muslims were violent junkies, then a blood bath would have followed in the neighboring countries against Hindu minorities in the aftermath of Godhra, Gujrat, massacre where nearly 2000 Muslims were massacred (with Modi’s local government’s approval) in the so-called secular and democratic India. No such thing occurred.
True to their identity, Muslims are, in general, a peaceful people. Unfortunately, their simplicity and nonchalance have been abused, at an accelerated frequency in recent years, by sadistic, vulgar and scornful rascals like Rushdie who get a kick out of mocking and abusing their faith, including the very personality of its noble Prophet. Added to these villains are hordes of spiteful and powerful fundamentalists (the likes of Falwell, Graham, and Robertson) who may rightly be called the drumbeaters of the Armageddon. The current set of events is a sad reminder of a world that is increasingly sinking into the bloody swamps of political nihilism. In these days of Information Super Highway, while it is almost impossible to psyche oneself out from unpleasant happening somewhere, my hope is Muslims will not let the votaries of bigotry and insensitivity to win over them.
Rushdie audaciously calls for modernizing Islamic culture and faith by his group of “Rushdies.” In that display of arrogance, he forgets that the Muslim world does not require bigots whose only aim in life has lately been to demonize Islam and its adherents. Their problems and anguish cannot be solved by acts of moral vandalism by artistic delinquents like him. Their problems would have to be solved by their genuine intellectuals who know and understand their people, their geography, their politics and economics, their culture and tradition.