Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Fatwa Catches Up With Salman Rushdie

Fatwas, like diamonds, are forever. The long arm of a fatwa caught up with Salman Rushdie after 33 years. Except durability, fatwas and diamonds have nothing in common. In the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe sang, “diamonds are a girl's best friend.” It would have appeared macabre if the words of her song were, “fatwas are a girl's best friend.” 

I have read several of Salman Rushdie’s books, including The Satanic Verses, which he published in 1988 and which snagged him the fatwa in 1989, turning him into an international celebrity. The issue of the “satanic verses” (satanic suggestion) is the biggest and the oldest controversy in Islam. In the last 1400 years, the “satanic verses,” which praised the three Pagan goddesses of Arabia, were interpreted by Islamic theologians in all sorts of ways. Most modern Islamic theologians have cast doubt on the historicity of the incident which led to these verses. They claim that these verses are a myth. 

The issue of satanic verses is a theological minefield. Rushdie stepped on this minefield when he published The Satanic Verses, even though his book has little to do with the actual theological controversy in Islam. His book is on alienation and identity crisis.

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