From Rushdie’s friend: “Always support free speech, especially speech we hate. Otherwise there’s no hope at all.”

Salman Rushdie and Abbas Raza, at his the latter’s home in northern Italy.

For most of us, Salman Rushdie is only a name in the news, a man famous for his books and his marriages. To some of my friends, including Abbas Raza, founder of 3QuarksDaily (we’ve written about it here), he is more than that. Rushdie is a personal friend, and a friend of his extended Pakistani family.

Hence, Karachi-born Abbas Raza wrote on Facebook today about the attempted murder of the renowned Indian writer: “He is in critical condition with much blood loss. Apparently an artery in his neck was severed. I hope he comes back from this roaring. Let us all, in this dangerous moment, renew our commitment to always supporting free speech, especially speech we hate. Otherwise there’s no hope at all.”

On 3QD, he remembered Valentine’s Day 1989, when the fatwa was issued. In a 3QD post, he wrote: “… I knew in my gut that this was the opening salvo in what would become a massive internationalization of an Islamic war on freedom of speech and expression. After all, the government of Iran was threatening and planning to murder a British citizen, and even encouraging other Britons to murder him by putting a bounty on his head, with the enthusiastic approval of a large proportion of Muslims everywhere.

“And although, thank goodness, Rushdie remains safe, the Islamists have largely been winning this war since. They have successfully intimidated a very large number of writers and artists and journalists and film-makers all over the world into silence (and many live in exile because of threats to their safety), and within Muslim countries they have in addition used blasphemy laws to persecute their enemies and basically make any discussion of religion impossible.

“All this while religious apologists continue to proclaim to CNN and the BBC that their religion stands only for peace. Tell that to the tens of thousands of victims of religious violence in Pakistan alone. “Oh, the number of extremists is very small; most Muslims are peace-loving people.” The number of actual terrorists is always small. The problem is that too great a proportion of Muslims sympathize with these people, which is why it is impossible to eliminate them. Let us stop fooling ourselves with this nonsense. People need to stand up for free speech unequivocally, and against this barbarity, and especially Muslims need to. The battle must be joined now, in every way possible.”

Postscript from Abbas Raza: “I have written something about Salman Rushdie every year on Valentine’s Day since 1989, so for 33 years now. Here is what I wrote most recently: ‘Oddly enough, Valentine’s Day has become inextricably conflated in my mind with Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie. I can clearly remember where I was on this day in 1989: at my desk in the U.S. Department of Labor just off the mall in Washington, D.C., where I was working as a young engineer. I was shocked and dismayed to hear the news and revolted by the murderous threat issued by Khomeini. Of course, things have only gotten worse with religious bigots responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people in the quarter century since that day. One can be thankful for Salman’s continued safety but, at least in my estimation, the damage done to free expression in the arts has been immense. I know for a fact (because they have told me) that writers practice a kind of self-censorship in the aftermath of the Rushdie affair because they do not wish to be killed. Sad. But happy Valentine’s day!’ I hope he will make it through this fine. But the world will still remain a darker, scarier place than it was yesterday. And free speech is under attack everywhere now.”

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.