I posted yesterday about the appearance of Yusuf Islam — formerly Cat Stevens — at Jon Stewart‘s weekend rally (read it here). Nick Cohen at Standpoint posted about Salman Rushdie‘s surprise that Stewart “had given a starring role at his ‘Rally for Sanity’ to a crooner who had previously opined that Rushdie deserved to die for deciding of his own free will to abandon Islam and criticise its texts.” Actually, I thought the 1989 fatwa was specifically for Satanic Verses, but be that as it may…
Rushdie messaged him with more today:
I spoke to Jon Stewart about Yusuf Islam’s appearance. He said he was sorry it upset me, but really, it was plain that he was fine with it. Depressing.
We’ve come to a strange point when we have to explain the need to defend fundamental freedoms, such as non-violent freedom of expression. Free speech begins where you offend me. Otherwise it means nothing. And it doesn’t matter whether Rushdie is past his prime, whether you ever liked his books, or whether you find his attitudes repugnant (in many cases, I do, though I find him brilliantly provocative, as well.) And no one “asked for it” when it comes to a fatwa.
It’s sad that this kind of point even has to be explained in our “whatever” times, when lives are at stake.
Postscript on 11/14: The Atlantic weighs in — more here.