Those who hadn’t heard the name Salman Rushdie before, have heard it now as it's all over the news.
Millions of people across the globe know that British-Indian author Salman Rushdie was brutally attacked in New York on Friday, August 12.
Rushdie was scheduled to give a lecture at the education center in Chautauqua Institution located in southwestern New York. A man ran up to the stage and attacked him with a knife in the neck and abdomen. Police detained the assailant named Hadi Matar, 24, from Fairview, New Jersey.
Who is Salman Rushdie? He’s a literary giant. His famous words resonate with us today: “What is freedom of expression? without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."
In 2008, Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to literature, making him Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie. He has won five Booker Prizes. Rushdie pushed the margins of culture by addressing issues in his writings which were considered taboo. He uses wry sense of humour, magical realism and his own Indian culture to explore ideas from identity, history and politics to religious themes. He is a former president of the literary and human rights organization PEN America. He is a vocal and active defender of freedom.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, he said, “We must defend our valuable and hard-won freedom, we have to fight for it, if need be.” In 1988, Rushdie published his now ‘infamous’ novel The Satanic Verses.
All hell broke loose in the Muslim world when the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini accused the author of blasphemy and in 1989 issued a fatwa (a religious edict) against him, putting a bounty on his head, which (according to some reports) amounted to 3.3 million dollars today.
Muslims all over the world, especially in places like Pakistan, there were explosive rallies and calls to kill Rushdie. Ironically, if you asked the protesters whether they had read “Satanic Verses” you would find that most had not. It was a mob action but violent and angry. In 1991, two translators of the book were stabbed, one fatally.
You may ask why did this happen? Khomeini wanted to attract political attention and Rushdie became a convenient scapegoat. This was a time when we Muslim Reformers saw the clear distinction between Islam and Islamism (political Islam) because Khomeini was using this as a purely political move. However, it picked up traction and soon Rushdie had to go into hiding while Scotland Yard provided security for him.
In 2008, he moved to the United States. From a literary point of view, Rushdie had opened up Pandora's box by writing in Satanic Verses which was considered blasphemous. In 1998, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami rescinded the fatwa but the harm had been done. He could not put the genie back in the bottle. Islamists made it their mandate to get rid of Rushdie and blasphemy laws started being used with a vengeance against Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Today, there are hundreds of victims of blasphemy laws languishing in jails in Pakistan where we also saw an online jubilation after this horrific stabbing. With regards to the attacker, police said they were not clear on the motive. It's clearly a murderous Jihadist ideology at play.
Islamist angst against liberal values of freedom of expression is not new and according to the New York Post, Hadi Matar is accused of being "sympathetic to the Iranian regime and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard." His background is now coming to light and according to his mother in a recent interview, it's believed he was brainwashed into an extremist ideology by Hezbollah during a visit to Lebanon.
How does the attack on Salman Rushdie impact our lives today? Well, the fact that a man who stood for freedom of thought was so viciously assaulted in a public forum in New York sends shockwaves through all journalists and writers who stand for freedom of expression. Lebanese journalist Dima Sadek has received death threats after posting an image of the late Iranian commander Qasem Solaimani and Ayatollah Khomeini with the caption “The Satanic Verses." Other Muslim reformers constantly face threats and intimidation.
I too have received death threats, a fatwa and a lawsuit to intimidate me. This is nothing compared to what Rebel journalists face every day. They’re not only fighting zealots – they are also up against their own critical, nasty, hypocritical government. These days, our political leaders are so caught up in issues like woke culture, cancel culture and whether a man is a woman that have sidelined and ignored a menacing threat to our freedoms and lives. Their focus has been on Neo Nazis and white supremacists.
Remember that while right wing extremists are threatened, we should condemn their violence, their agenda is not global but localized which means they are not looking for worldwide hegemony and they don’t react like ticking time bombs when someone in Iran or Lebanon pushes their buttons.
Islamist ideology is not to be taken lightly – it emerges when least expected through their proxies planted all over the world. To understand this, let me give you an example:
Following Ayatollah Khomeini’s instructions, an Al Quds Day rally is held every year in all major cities of the Western world. This is a hate fest of the worst kind and is sometimes permitted to take place on government and in Canada. Our government allows the wishes of a deceased foreign leader to be carried out on the streets of Canada and considers it right, but Canadians wishing to express themselves in the form of a protest, are considered wrong.
You see the point I’m trying to make? If we’re beholden to foreign influence to such an extent, then what follows is an inevitable tragedy. Very conveniently and cleverly after 9/11 the Islamists have made themselves seem to be the victims, using “islamophobia” as a tool. Their aim? Imposition of their ideology globally and silencing all voices of dissent. That’s what Salman Rushdie was for them –a dissenting voice and they will use all forms of violence to perpetuate their insidious agenda. We are grateful that Rushdie is recovering but how long before some other mad Jihadi attacks him?
We at Rebel News condemn the attack on Salman Rushdie and wish him speedy recovery. We want to show our solidarity by starting a petition to support freedom of expression.
Please sign the petition here.