BIG POWERS intent on invading and waging war on a sovereign country or countries, in order to gain hegemony over a region of the world, must first create public opinion for so doing, including denigrating and demonising a whole people. Such was the role played by the writer Salman Rushdie with his book The Satanic Verses published in 1988, which insulted Islam and gravely disturbed and provoked its followers. What followed is justified and grotesquely glamorised in Rushdie’s latest book, Joseph Anton, an autobiographical work focussing on his decade under police protection, the title being his assumed name during that period. This new book is currently being massively promoted.
In the late 1980s, with the Soviet Empire collapsing, the main threat to Anglo-American imperialism’s drive to dominate the world, apart from the remaining overtly socialist countries, was the anti-imperialist stance of various Middle East and Asian countries, albeit under the banner of Islam, but anti-imperialist in essence nonetheless. Contributing to the preparation of public opinion for military aggression against these countries a decade or more later was the work of certain intellectuals, notably Salman Rushdie.
The dreadful catastrophes subsequently to befall Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, in particular, were to be the dire outcome.
Rushdie’s insult to Islam and its believers could not have been but deliberate. He well knew what would be the result. The furore caused by his book could have been predicted. In fact, when riots broke out across South Asia, in which many died, Rushdie was quoted as expressing satisfaction that sales of his book might now increase.
Concerning his subsequent circumstances, it could well be asked if any other writer claiming to be “progressive” had ever been given round-the-clock protection by the Special Branch, at a level only previously accorded to a monarch or prime minister? Certainly, those in the progressive movement could readily list hundreds who have been harassed, persecuted, and even possibly eliminated by that very undercover state agency! Clearly the state was protecting a person who was doing it valuable service! In fact, rather than being the victim of cruel persecution, Rushdie, on his own admission, could be said to have lived the life of Riley during this period. In a recent interview, he gleefully recalls how the presence of “his boys” – in his own nauseating words “handsome, fit, armed and very sexy” – added a certain much-welcomed “cachet” to his appearance at numerous literary dinner parties. And his main eventual abode in London was in what was known locally as Millionaires Row.
At the time, publication of Rushdie’s book, with its quite obscene passages, was defended on the grounds of Freedom of Speech, including by many in the communist and progressive movement. But surely, it cannot be so justified? The right of freedom of expression cannot cover the insulting of a whole people and their religion, in such a provocative way as to cause death and mayhem. Such an argument has time and time again been exposed as false, as in the debates in the ’60s and ’70s over No Platform for Racists and Fascists in the universities, when every student union in the land rightly supported the call.
Rushdie’s latest book again serves imperialist warmongering. Its unrepentant defence and justification of his earlier insult and provocation to Islam and its followers, coming as it does when the drums of war beat once again over Syria and Iran – with the devastation of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya plain for all to see – make clear why his book is receiving such massive publicity.
His latest book is to be condemned as strongly as his earlier work, as is its promotion!
From Workers’ Weekly E-Mail Edition Volume 42, Number 30, October 6, 2012, Weekly On Line Newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
Christopher Coleman, “The controversy over The Satanic Verses,” The New Weekly Magazine, March 1, 1989, Volume 3, Number 8.