29 September 2018

The Satanic Verses sowed the seeds of rifts that have grown ever wider

.... Some defenders of Rushdie began wrapping their arguments in the language of identity, too, questioning the very presence of Muslims as being incompatible with “western values”.

In the 1990s, the US political scientist Samuel Huntington popularised the term “the clash of civilisations”, a notion that increasingly gained a hearing in liberal circles, particularly in the wake of 9/11. Many came to defend free speech and secularism and Enlightenment ideals not as universal values but as uniquely “western” products; more as tribal weapons in the clash of civilisations than as means of advancing political rights and social justice. It’s a world view that, ironically, mirrors that of the Islamists.

The controversy over The Satanic Verses brought into focus issues that have since become defining problems of the age – the nature of Islam, the meaning of multiculturalism, the boundaries of tolerance in a liberal society and the limits of free speech in a plural world. That, 30 years on, we still blindly wrestle with these issues reveals how little we have learned from the Rushdie affair. And how the lessons we have learned have often been the wrong ones. [The Guardian] Read more