Today’s Guardian: Looking Back At The Satanic Verses

I have a short piece in today’s Guardian looking back at the Satanic Verses affair. The Guardian item contains recollections from a number of people and appears to have been commissioned because Salaman Rushdie’s memoirs are due to be published this week. Here is what I had to say:

Looking back to the autumn of 1988, I think it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that it was in the heat of the Satanic Verses affair that we first saw the forging of a consciously British Muslim identity in the UK. I was a second-year university student at the time and it was a heady feeling marching and demonstrating alongside others who were from various ancestral backgrounds, including from the Indian subcontinent, north Africa, south-east Asia and elsewhere, but all united by their faith in Islam. Of course, our demands – which included the pulping of all copies of Rushdie’s novel – were, in retrospect, totally over the top and very embarrassing. We may not have liked his book, but there could be no excuse for trying to deny others the right to buy it and read it for themselves. I would hope that if the same events were to be replayed today, UK Muslims would instead respond by publishing their own books offering their own narrative. But you know what? After all these years, I still think Salman Rushdie is a bit pompous.

My original copy said that Rushdie was a ‘pompous git’. Not sure why the Guardian removed the ‘git’!

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3 Responses to Today’s Guardian: Looking Back At The Satanic Verses

  1. Asim says:

    All who demonstrated against The Satanic Verses should acknowledge that Khomeini’s Fatwa and the calls for the book to be banned were totally wrong. To get worked up about a crazy novel is just stupid.

  2. Jack Holt says:

    According to Geoffrey Robertson (in the same Guardian article), the claims of blasphemy were examined in court and found to be false, which casts a truly sickening light on this whole affair. For me the scenes of book-burning were abhorrent and un-English, I’d seen nothing like it before except in films of the Nazis, it was reminiscent of the religious madness of the Tudor period, something we’d shaken off centuries ago.

    I had read the book before the fuss started and was unaware that it might be saying anything about religion. For me it was a book about the lives of two emigrees starting a new life in Britain: one tried to assimilate but was never truly accepted, the other played up his exoticness and was embraced. But most of all, it was a book about institutional racism: years before the murder of Stephen Lawrence it railed against institutional racism in the police and in the immigration service. It was a book about the shocking attitudes of many people towards immigrants. It could have been used by ethnic minorities to highlight the appalling treatment they frequently received – especially at the hands of the state. Instead, this aspect of the book was forgotten in favour of a medieval display of intolerance by people who’d only heard second or third hand accounts of the book’s so-called blasphemies.

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