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Rushdie and the Mohammed Cartoons

PUBLISHED: March 2, 2006

Salman Rushdie
Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that originally published the Mohammed cartoons, has now posted a manifesto, denouncing the ensuing violence, signed by twelve intellectuals—including writers Salman Rushdie, Irshad Manji, Taslima Nasreen, Chahla Chafiq, and Ibn Warraq. Considering the authors, the language is remarkably generalized and occasionally even obscure:

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

This vague wording conceals the urgency of this matter—the fundamental clash of cultures underlying the mounting problems of the world. Personally, I prefer Rushdie’s own clearer statement made in the pages of the Fall 2004 issue of VQR:

The need for this open dialogue was demonstrated on September 11. The world’s stories are no longer separate from each other. You don’t have the story of America over here, the story of Saudi Arabia over there. Most people in New York, in the United States, I suspect, would not have thought of the story of al Qaeda as having much to do with them, but then, on that terrible day, al Qaeda became the story of New York and Washington, D.C., and all of the United States as well. We can no longer seal our cultures away from each other. We cannot pretend they belong in separate baskets. Everyone’s story is everyone else’s story, or can become so in a flash—or in an explosion.

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