Rushdie and the Demonization of Islam
By Shad Shahid, The Milli Gazette
Published Online: Jan 26, 2012
Print Issue: 1-15 February 2012
When the mainstream media went to town depicting the absence of Rushdie as a loss for India’s liberal traditions and democratic ethos, it was indeed a naive analysis. To properly take cognizance of this matter and deliberate on its repercussions, a dialectical inquiry is necessary to contextualize the larger historical and literary issues touching the Rushdie affair. Not only does this issue impact freedom of speech, it is also part of the overarching narrative constructed by the Western intelligentsia regarding progress and civilization. The imperative is that, despite the overwhelming noise generated by liberal activists of all hues, there was simply no alternative for Indian Muslims but to oppose the visit of an individual who indulges in reinforcing a demonization and denunciation of everything that they visualize as sacred.
First and foremost, it goes without saying that there is nothing like absolute freedom of speech. Anyone who says so is at risk of fooling himself as well as others. To illustrate, no country worth its salt can tolerate disrespect to its national symbols – even in India, despite all the talk of ancient liberal ethos embedded in Indic culture, you cannot stand up and abuse the national flag or the national anthem or the Father of the Nation. Nationalism has become sacrosanct in the modern narrative, which is often used to further jingoistic tendencies in the masses by right-wing politicians.
Where is the Loony Fringe?
Finally, it would be a safe assertion to make that most of those clamouring for the side of Rushdie have either not read the book, or not understood the tradition of which he is definitely a part. To compare him with MF Hussain is not really germane, because the latter is not part of any tradition of vilification of Hindu goddesses by Muslims. In fact, MF Hussain while not any paragon of virtue, has not strayed too far from what is already part of Hindu tradition in the artisan engravings at Khajuraho. Rushdie on his part has not only willingly become part of a well-established western tradition of abuse but is also guilty of treachery to the culture of the nation he was born into — it is no wonder that he had to run away to lead a lascivious life with unending affairs in the West. This is symptomatic of a number of ex-Muslims or born Muslims who make it their hobby to bash Islam and everything it holds sacred — whether it is Ayan Hirsi Ali or Irshad Manji or Ali Sina or Taslima Nasrin — Islam-bashing is the fastest way to get a Western passport and all the temporary luxuries of this life!