Describe the main issues in the ‘Rushdie Affair’ and suggest ways in which it should be resolved. “Without free speech no search for truth is possible… no discovery of truth is useful… Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech” Charles Bradlaugh(7877) The quote above reads as a statement to which the majority of individuals, upon reading, would instantly agree with. As a country we believe we are living in a time in which we are able to freely express our selves, and our opinions. However, by studying this belief further one would be alarmed to discover just how ‘free’ their opinion is legally capable of being.
In this essay I intend to describe what is known as ‘The Rushdie affair’ and highlight the issues which it brought into public discussion, which include freedom of speech. I will provide a background to Rushdie himself and focus on several of his other works in order to obtain a clearer picture of the man who’s novel was deemed so offensive that it lead to his life being threatened. I’ll draw upon previous research and other novelist’s opinions combined with personal opinion in order to address the question accurately. I will conclude by suggesting how the saga can be, if possible, resolved.
Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay on the 19th of June, 1947. He was raised in India by his middle-class parents who were devout muslims, and so Rushdie was brought up within the religion. In 1961 he was sent to Britain to attend an exclusive English public school, ‘Rygby’. His parents moved to Karachi, Pakistan, reluctantly joining the Muslim exodus which developed into a war between India and Pakistan. The divided loyalties and choosing of sides burdened Rushdie and some believe this had an impact on his later works. He continued his education in Britain and in his university years his cultural identity began to develop.
This was shown in his determination to study ‘Mohammed and the rise of Islam’, a course which had no value in the western society at the time. We are already able to see how Rushdie did indeed see ‘MUSLIMITY’ within him, yet wanted to study what he had been brought up with in search of answers to questions within him. Rushdie began writing in…. and his first novel ‘Midnight’s children (1981) brought him a wide audience which resulted in him claiming Britain’s Booker prize for it. The novel was an allegory about the birth of independent India, whilst another of his book’s, ‘Shame’, focused on Pakistan’s rulers.
His works were a great success, and his reputation increased dramatically, however, Rushdie never seemed content with the extent of his success. When Rushdie published his novel ‘The satanic verses’ nothing could have prepared him for the response and its doubtful he perceived that his life would never be the same again. QUOTE. The novel is set in Britain and tells the tale of two characters, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, who fall from a plane which is hijacked and land safely, both confronted by the question “who am I” (Rushdie,199999).
“Just before dawn one winter’s morning, New year’s day or thereabouts, two real, full grown, living men fell from a great height… “. This refers to areal act of terrorism, when, in 1985 an Air India boeing 747 was blown up by supposed Sikh terrorists. Rushdie’s characters names alone caused offence to Muslim’s, as Gibreel Farishta translates literally from Urdu into ‘Gabriel angel’, who according to Islamic tradition brought down the Koran from God to Muhammed. (saY HERE BOWT MUHAMMED.. MAHOUND? )MORE OF Y DEY WERE CROSS.
Following the publishing of the novel protests immediately began, peaceful at first but resulting in violent outbursts in which many were hurt. On the 27th of May,1989, there was a demonstration in hyde park, banners were held “Freedom of speech, yes! , Freedom to insult , no! “, others stated “Rushdie is a devil, kill the bastard”. It was evident that people had been hurt by the novel and wanted to show Rushdie this, whilst on the other hand, some merely wanted revenge. “Not everyone was praying…
many, especially the younger men continued to mill about in the sunshine… they wore jeans and headbands. The most murderous placards were carried by the non-observant” (Ruthven, 1990). The book was seen as an attack on the honour of the whole Muslim community “I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses book which is against Islam, the prophet and the Koran, and all involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death” (Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini)