Monday, January 23, 2012

Satanic Verses - six different takes on the topic

I am pleased to share different takes on the issue of freedom of speech and Satanic Verses. If you want to have an opinion on the topic, it is good to read six pieces appended below in the link.

 Maulana Wahiduddin’s view is my view as well.  Indeed, I have written in identical terms about Tasleema Nasreen  ( ) and the  Pastor who wanted to burn the Quraan ( . 
I would have written two articles identical to Maulana Wahiduddin, and Praveen Swami, thanks to both of them to write it out, they have said precisely what I wanted to say. Aijaz Syed has articulated some great points.

I applaud Sultan Shaheen to put together diverse opinions on the issues, just as I have done over the years. Unless we have all the cards placed on the table, our opinion or solutions remain incomplete without factoring in all aspects of the issue.  However, I would not have taken the approach of Sultan Shahn’s own opinion. 

Muhammad Yunus’ piece is incredible one on the topic; however his highlight is on the life of Prophet. I have held the same opinion as Yunus and it is  good to read his research on the topic.
Reverence for Prophet is beautiful but making a God out of him was not his message. He was the ultimate consummate peacemaker and wanted us, the whole humanity to live in peace by learning about each other (49:13) and respecting everyone equally (last sermon). It's his message that he wanted us to value. The best among us is one who is sincere, humble, and pious and does well to fellow beings by his virtues and not by his birth. We don’t need miracles to prove his prophet hood, our faith should be strong enough in his message, which in itself is a miracle, the prophet wanted to create cohesive societies where no human was above the other. It’s the same message you find in all the great wisdom, Islam is not a new religion, prophet had said that repeatedly, It's your character not the familial or racial thing that needs to judged. He even said that to his daughter, you earn your ticket to paradise through your deeds, in what you do to your fellow beings and not because you are his daughter.

As Muslims, and as part of the human family, our role ought to be to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill for creating a society where no one feels injustice is done to them, and ultimately no one is apprehensive of the other. As Praveen Swami has written, no one can cast the first stone.  We all have to sit down and do what is good for all of us in the long run.

Take the time to read them all, they will contribute to your thought process.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer and thinker committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on current issues. His work is indexed in the links at
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Muslim reactions to Salman Rushdie: No Thought Crime in Islam, says Maulana Wahiddudin Khan
By Maulana Wahiddudin Khan
Jan 15, 2012
According to international norms, everyone has the right to express his views in a peaceful manner, says MAULANA WAHIDDUDIN KHAN
Salman Rushdie is once again in the news. Born in India and now settled in the UK, he has been invited to the Jaipur Literature Festival that is being held from January 20 to 24. On hearing of this, a Muslim religious organisation reacted by issuing a statement demanding that the government of India should not allow Rushdie’s entry into India. According to them, he has committed blasphemy in his book The Satanic Verses, and his visit to India will hurt the sentiments of Muslims here.
According to my way of thinking, the demand by this Muslim group is completely uncalled for. They have the right to stop Rushdie from coming to their own campus, but they have no right to ban his entry into Indian soil.
Follow The Constitution
India is a democratic country which is guided by a secular constitution and Muslims should know the framework of the Indian Constitution. Any demand that is alien to this constitutional framework will undoubtedly be invalid and unacceptable to the Indian government.
Moreover, this kind of demand is un-Islamic. It is against the Islamic spirit. If Muslims want to represent Islam, they must take the visit of Rushdie as an opportunity to invite the British author to enter into a dialogue, so that they may discuss the controversial point with him, and try to impress upon him their point of view. This visit to India by Rushdie gives them the chance to remove any misunderstanding of Islam by presenting their case before him in a rational manner.
There is a very relevant verse in the Quran on this subject. It reads: “If any of the non-believers seeks your protection, then let him come so that he may hear the words of God, then convey him to a place of safety” (9:6).
What The Quran Says
The verse focuses on a very important Islamic principle, that Muslims should welcome everybody. According to this principle, Muslims should organise meetings with the British author. They should put their point of view before him in a rational manner, then try to present to him their point of view and their objections to his writings.
If Rushdie is not convinced, they should make Dua for him and according to the Quranic teaching, see him off amicably, without rancour.
We are living in an age of freedom. According to international norms, everyone has the right to express his views in a peaceful manner. Muslims also have right to put their point of view before Rushdie, just as he has the right to express his views — both have an equal right.
Spirit Of The Age
It is not good for Muslims to go against the spirit of the age. If they do so, they will only harm the religion of Islam. They will prove by this act that George Orwell was right when he said that Islam believes in “thought-crime”, although Islam is completely free of this blame.
If Rushdie has published a negative book, Muslims by their negative reaction are giving the false impression that Islam does indeed believe in “thought-crime”. I would, therefore, like to reiterate that Muslims should take this opportunity to have a dialogue with Rushdie and try to present the Islamic point of view to him rationally, so that he may understand the true picture of Islam.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi

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Acceptance of The Satanic Verses Episode of The Classical Sira is Shirk knd Kufr value acceptance of the episode of Satanic Verses and other colorful, dramatic, and vindictive accounts of the Classical Sira (the Prophet’s early biography) stand shirk, kufr and nifaq (hypocrisy) in present day objective vocabulary.
Islamic theology must be treated historic critically because of its undeniable historical moorings;
The eternal and universal paradigms of the Qur’an must be regarded as the font of guidance for all humanity for all times.

By Muhammad Yunus,
co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.

“Thus we made for every messenger an enemy - Satans from among men and jinn, some of them inspiring others with seductive talk (in order to) deceive (them), and had your Lord pleased, they would not have done it. Therefore, leave them and what they forge” (6:112).
“Thus we made for every messenger an enemy among the criminals - but enough is your Lord (O Muhammad,) as a Guide and Helper” (25:31).

The biggest problem with Muslim scholars and theologians is that on one hand they regard the Qur’an as the infallible word of God and ultimate font of wisdom and guidance, and on the other, they claim the divinity/integrity of their theological discourses that were pieced together by early scholars/Imams - in most cases by one or few individuals, with resources as scanty as their era could pool. The case of the alleged satanic verses is a glaring example.
The episode was first put together from oral accounts by Ibn Ishaq (d. 768), one of the earliest biographers of the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632). al-Tabari (d. 926), one of the earliest and most renowned exegetes, drew on Ibn Ishaq’s manuscript (not preserved for later times) to relate the story, which suggests that as the Prophet was preaching to an elite (Quays) audience, a revelation came down venerating the three most popular pagan deities (Lat, Uzi and Manta) in the underlined words below: "Have you considered al-Lat and al-‘Uzi (53:19), and another, the third (goddess), Manta (53:20). These are the exalted birds whose intercession is approved.”

The story further suggests that the venerating words were later expunged from the Qur'an and replaced with what we find in it today: “What! For you the male sex and for Him the female (53:21)? Behold, such would indeed be the most unfair division” (53:22).

Ibn Hisham (d. 834), who edited and published Ibn Ishaq’s work, and the early compilers of the Hadith (Imam al-Bukhari, d. 870, and Muslim, d. 875) who both succeeded Ibn Ishaq and preceded al-Tabari, make no mention of this episode, indicating their suspicion about the authenticity of the narrators in the transmission chain (isnad) dating from the Prophet’s era. More importantly, the story is not substantiated by the Qur’an and, in fact, contradicts its repeated assertion on the incorruptibility of its text (6:34, 6:115, 18:27, 41:42, 85:22), and is therefore not tenable, unless the Qur’an were to falsify itself – which it did not [1]. Some Muslim scholars have, however, made a sweeping connection of this episode with the Qur’anic generic verses 22:52/53, which relate to Satan’s influencing the desires (tamanna) of the prophets and messengers in general and not to Satan’s tampering with the revelation. Salman Rushdie has treated the episode as a fantasy, as it veritably deserves, although he has been provocative possibly to gain appeal among the Western audience. Fame, ambition and wealth remain the chief motivators of the mortals – no matter how intellectually gifted. And the na├»ve dances in the tune of such instigators disregarding the Qur’anic reminders under the caption above and thus turn the knave into a hero and celebrity. But this is beside the point.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdi might have been prompted by his desire to pose as the leader of the global Muslim community, or it might as well have been aimed at pre-empting enlightened scholarship from digging into the Islamic theology. Theologians lose their theological clout once the human element of theology is exposed and so they abhor any theological scrutiny. $
The truth is, as in all ancient religions, theological discourses are embedded with legends, fantasies, fables, tales, parables and all forms of embellishments, characterized by the era in which they evolved. The embellishments were incorporated – as part of the literary culture and paradigms of the era - to aggrandize and lionize the founder of the religion its leaders, to demonize the perceived enemies, to fire the imagination of common-folk and to fill them with awe and admiration for their prophet/ religious leaders. Islam has been no exception. Thus, despite the Qur’an’s repeated assertions of the Prophet’s incapability to show any miracles (6:37, 11:12, 13:7, 17:90-93, 21:5, 25:7/8, 29:50), the most authentic of Sunni Hadith compilation – that of Imam al-Bukhari credits him with the following miracles: $
The Prophet's touching/ rubbing of the mouths of two empty water skins enabled the latter to fill all the empty water skins of his companions [2].
Flowing of water from his fingers [3].
Rising up of water from a dry well at Hudaibiya to help quench the thirst of one thousand and four hundred of his companions [4].
Manifold increase in the quantity of meal served to guests at the Prophet's invocation [5].
Continuous one week rain with flooding immediately after his invocation [6].
Audible crying of the stem of a date palm tree in the Prophet's mosque [7].
Increase in the amount of dates in a garden after the Prophet went round it [8].
Splitting of the Moon at the Prophet's command [9]. $

Similarly, the Qur’an testifies that the Prophet was unaware of his mission before the revelation commenced (10:16, 29:48, 42:52), and that the Meccans had no clue whatsoever of his vocational assignment as he later claimed, and accordingly they took him for a joke (21:36, 25:41), called him an impostor (30:58), crazy (44:14, 68:51) and a crazy poet (37:35/36); and ridiculed the Qur’anic revelation (18:56, 26:6, 37:14, 45:9) as the legends of the ancients (6:25, 23:82/83, 27:67/68, 68:15, 83:13) and a jumble of dreams (21:5). However, disregarding these copious, repetitive, compelling and irrefutable Qur’anic testimonies regarding the obscurity of his early life, the following tale of the circumstance of his birth became very popular not long after his death:

“When the planet al-Moushtari past, a line of light darted for the second time from Amina's body in the direction of far away Syria and it illuminated the palace of the town of Busra. At the same time, other prodigies astonished the world: the lake Sowa suddenly dried up; a violent earthquake made the palace of Chosroes the Great tremble, and shattered fourteen of its towers; the sacred fire, kept alight for more than a thousand years, went out in spite of the exertions of its Persian worshippers, and all the idols of the universe were found with their heads bowed down in great shame” [10]. $

Another area of major contrast is the profound veneration of the Prophet in the traditional accounts and the Classical Sira (The Prophet’s biography). The Qur’an describes him as a human being like others (18:110, 41:6), places him at a spiritual parity with other Prophets (2:136, 2:285, 4:152), its Speaker, God, does not speak to him directly except through the agency of archangel Gabriel, threatens to “seize him by the right hand (69:45), then sever his aorta” (69:46) were he to tamper with the revelation, and warns his wounded followers at the end of Uhud battle (625) in the face of a rumor about his fatality that “Muhammad was merely a messenger, other messengers had passed away before him and(and asks them,) if he died or was killed would they turn on their heels?(3:144). As a sharp contrast to these and other similar enunciations asserting the absolute remoteness of God from the person of the Prophet, the traditional account illustrated below venerate him as an integral part of God’s creative scheme, thus (God forbid) transgressing the transcendence of the Almighty:
“Muhammad said: ‘The first light which Allah created was my light.’ They say that when Allah created His divine Throne, He wrote on it in letters of light: ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. ‘When Adam went out of Paradise, he saw the name Muhammad coupled with the name of Allah written on the leg of the Throne and everywhere in Paradise” [11]. $
Any orthodox Muslim or Islam critical scholar will know numerous such accounts that are knit together to aggrandize and virtually deify the Prophet. In the medieval ages these accounts did not stand out as odd or exaggerated as the literary style of the era admitted such embellishments as part of the prevalent linguistic art – the most predominant art form of the era. Thus, contemporaneous accounts extol King Solomon by reporting that he bedded with all his one hundred wives one night [12], and ii) Sir Key of King Arthur’s court claimed before the full house that he threw a stone ‘as large as a cow’ to dislodge the ‘stranger’ (a human being), who had leaped up to the top of a tree, two hundred cubits high in a single bound [13]. The simple people of the era who heard these accounts made no effort to objectively evaluate them. They had grown up in a literary environment that was far more geared to creating an emotional and sensational impact than recording historical facts. So they let these ‘tall’ accounts pass over their heads and waited to know the bottom lines. But in today’s objective and analytical vocabulary these embellished accounts sound untrue, highly exaggerated, bizarre and fantasized. $
The Muslim ulama suffer ambivalence, or rather a pathetic disorientation in their mindset. Groomed in the medieval theological discourses in their madrassas, they venerate the medieval embellished accounts but at the same time they hold on to the truth of the Qur’anic revelation that keeps absolutely clear of the embellished medieval accounts that sound like fables, legends and fantasies today. The legend of Satanic Verses is one such account.
If the Muslim ulama continue to venerate the embellished accounts of their medieval theological corpuses, and do not treat them as closed corpuses - tales, fables and gossips in today’s objective vocabulary, they will be acting like some of the Beduin Arabs of the Prophet’s era, who were intense (ashaddu) in kufr (denial) and nifaq (hypocricy) (9:97-98) – because they cannot simultaneously venerate the Qur’an and a theological corpus that in its face value contains tales, fables, embellishments and legends such as the Satanic Verses and other similar episodes that are antithetic to the Qur’anic message.

This is no trick of arguments. The early biographers relied entirely on the oral reports – or rather poetic imageries that constituted the news of the era. Thus, the work of the early biographers suffered internal incoherence as different poets left differing accounts and it was simply impossible for the early biographers to produce a coherent record from the materials on their hands. This can amply be demonstrated by the following examples of inconsistency and emotional outbursts of Ibn Hisham’s work:
i) One section of the work shows a martyred companion of the Prophet, Khabib, articulating his deep parting emotions in a poetic imagery as he stood on the gallows just before he was hanged [14]. Another section contradicts this imagery suggesting that the martyr was weeping unceasingly as he stood on the gallows [15].
ii) The work quotes the parting dialogue between the propagandist poet Ka‘b Ibn Ashraf and his wife, just as he was coming out from ‘under the blanket’ at the call of Abu Naila, who had gone to his house to kill him [16]. The poet was killed suddenly, and it is inconceivable that his widow would tell the parting words of her slain husband to those who killed him. The quoted words were obviously speculative.
The same holds for the works of al-Waqidi (d. 206/822) and Ibn Sa‘d (d. 230/845) In fact, these early biographers have been sharply criticized by many Muslim scholars of their own era [17].

Conclusion: It is high time that the Muslim theologians and scholarship acknowledge that the accounts reported in the Prophet’s early biography are laid out in the literary style and mental framework and imageries of the era - that was characterized by what we shall today call, fantasy, fable, imaginations and speculations verging on the fantabulous, the grotesque and the bizarre. While some examples are quoted above, the following extract on the Prophet Muhammad’s conversation with Adam in the first heaven reported in one of Ibn Hisham’s versions loudly testifies to its apocryphal character:
“Then I saw men with lips like those of camels. In their hands were balls of fire which they thrust into their mouths and collected from their extremities to thrust into their mouths again. I asked, ‘Who are these O Gabriel?’ He said, ‘these are men who robbed the orphans.’ I then saw men with large bellies the likes of which I have never seen before even on the road to the house of Pharaoh where the greatest punishment is meted out to the greatest sinners. These are then trodden upon by men who when brought to the fire run like maddened camels. Those whom they tread upon remain immobile…. I then saw women hanging from their breasts and asked, who are these, O Gabriel? He said, ‘These are women who fathered on their husbands’ children, not their own.’… He then took me into Paradise where I saw a beautiful damsel with luscious lips. As I was attracted by her, I asked her, ‘To whom do you belong?’ She answered, ‘To Zayd Ibn Harithah.’” [18]
It must be admitted that it will be a gross injustice and insolence of the highest order to undermine the earlier biographic works or their authors. Their works fired the imagination of their audience and fed religious inspiration and zeal to millions and millions of people down the generations until this very era. Practically all the converts to Islam had identified their religion with their Prophet and found it far easier and inspiring to glorify their religious leaders with whom they could associate rather than probe the message he left for them. This propensity of icon-worship imperceptibly found its way into Islam and resulted in an explosive proliferation of hymns and accounts glorifying the Prophet Muhammad. However, the Muslim ulama must understand that God had assigned a singular role to the Prophet - that is to convey God’s Message [19] - the Qur’an with clarity [20]. If the ulama insist on a regime of oral theological devotion – loving the Prophet, showering him with praises, narrating his biography in a literalist fashion, researching on issues like Satanic verses and the miraculous powers and military genius of the Prophet, observing his birthday with great fanfare, praying for him in all their prayers and so on but totally ignore the functional aspect of his message – the social, moral and ethical paradigms of the Qur’an, they have virtually reduced the Prophet into a cult leader and Islam into a cult of Muhammad that will repel the seekers of Divine guidance from Islam and freeze Islam into the seventh century Arabia. Face value acceptance of the episode of Satanic Verses and other colorful, dramatic, vindictive and venerating accounts of the Classical Sira (the Prophet’s early biography), read and propagated in today’s objective vocabulary may thus stand shirk, kufr and nifaq (hypocrisy) – though God knows best; and the practice must be deconstructed in favor of preaching the Qur’anic message – rid of its historical moorings.

2.Sahih al-Bukhari, English translation by Mohsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, Vol.4, Acc.771.
3.         Ibid., Vol.4, Acc.772-776, 779.
4.         Ibid., Vol.4, Acc.777.
5.         Ibid., Vol.4, Acc.778, 781.
6.         Ibid., Vol.4, Acc.782.
7.         Ibid., Vol.4, Acc.783-785.
8.         Ibid., Vol.4, Acc.780.
9.         Ibid., Vol.4, Acc.830, 831.
10. Sliman bin Ibrahim and Etienne Dinet, The life of Muhammad, London 1990 , p. 19.
11. Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, English translation, 2nd edition, London 1996, p. 304.
1. 12. Sahih al-Bukhari, (2 above) Vol.7, Acc. 169.
13. Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, USA 1988, p. 23.
14. Ibn Hisham, Sirrat un Nabi, Urdu translation by Gholam Rasul, Delhi 1984, Vol.2, Chap.124, p. 197.
15. Ibid., Vol. 2, Chap.124, p. 198.
16. Ibid,, Vol.2, p. Chap.109, p. 35.
17. To quote Rafique Zakaria:
“He (Ibn Ishaq) has been sufficiently meticulous in the collection of facts, but sometimes he does not distinguish between facts and fiction. That is why many of his contemporaries denounced him... Malik, one of the founders of four schools of Muslim theology, who was a contemporary of Ibn Ishaq, called him ‘a devil’. Hisham bin Umara, another prominent theologian of the time said, ‘the rascal lies.’ Imam Hanbal, one of the greatest jurists of Islam refused to rely on the traditions collected by him. There were many other learned men who held similar views about Ibn Ishaq’s works. The same is more or less true of his successors like al-Waqidi, Ibn Sa‘d…” - Muhammad and the Qur’an, London 1992, p. 12.
18. Muhammad Husayn Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, English translation by Ismail Ragi, 8th edition, Karachi 1989, p. 143.
19. 5:99, 7:158 13:40, 42:48.
20. 5:92, 16:82, 24:54.
January 21, 2012
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.

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Salman Rushdie: Indian Muslims Should Stop Fighting Phantoms, Take Up Real Issues
By Aijaz Z. Syed

20 January, 2012

When I first heard of Salman Rushdie I was at university.
The Satanic Verses had set off a perfect storm in India and around the world. The book was banned in India following fiery protests by Muslims. Many died in Mumbai when police opened fire on angry protesters. Then came Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa sanctioning the novelist's death, sparking a global debate on free speech and "excessive" Muslim sensitivity.

One day, discussing artistic freedom in one of his lectures, Prof. Isaac Sequiera, who headed the English department at Osmania University and taught us American literature, launched a blistering broadside against Khomeini's fatwa and attempts by "some people" to curtail free speech. Prof. Sequiera was one of those brilliant teachers who would draw you to the class day after day. Yet it wasn't easy to stomach his critique of the Muslim response to Rushdie's book, comparing it to the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Was it the same thing?

The church burned “heretics” on mere hearsay — and everyone who didn't subscribe to its worldview — at stake. When Galileo suggested Earth was round, rather than flat as the church insisted, he was given a chance to reconsider his opinion while he spent the rest of his life behind bars.

Rushdie, on the other hand, has repeatedly abused his creative license, and the gift of creativity, to assail a billion people's revered icons. As someone born in a Muslim family, he knew what he was doing and its possible consequences.

No freedom is absolute — not even in the anything-goes West. Blasphemy is a serious crime in many European nations including in Denmark. Every freedom is qualified. Every right comes with responsibility. You can't go around happily waving your big stick and hitting people in the name of freedom. The freedom of your stick ends where my nose begins. And if you think you have a right to offend, well, others have an equal right to take offense. If Rushdie is free to exercise his creative freedom to attack people's sacred icons, shouldn't his victims too have a right to exercise their freedom of action to deal with him?

Of course, I couldn't say all this to my teacher. Blame it on my moral timidity or the fact that I was painfully shy and the only Muslim in the whole class. That was nearly two decades ago. Today, as this row over Rushdie's participation in the Jaipur literary festival rages on, I am amazed by the fact how little has changed in this whole debate over the past two decades. The latest report is Rushdie has cancelled his visit to India for the Jaipur festival due to security reasons.

The Muslims are upset over the invitation being extended to someone whose name has become a curse word for them. On the other hand, the increasingly shrill voices in the media are crying themselves hoarse as they invoke India's fabled tolerance while ignoring the sentiments of the minority community.

Indeed, more than their concern for the nation's secular ethos, it's their intolerance of all things Muslim that has them batting for Rushdie. They defend his right to visit his “motherland” oblivious of the fact that the man has repeatedly heaped abuse and scorn on the same motherland and its icons in his books, from Midnight's Children to Shame to The Moor's Last Sigh.

The late Premier Indira Gandhi took Rushdie to court over Midnight's Children which describes her as a “black widow.” He was forced to expunge parts of the book that had Sanjay Gandhi accusing his mother of killing his father, Feroz Gandhi, by neglecting him. Rushdie argued in court that it was only fiction, only to be snubbed by the judge who pointed out that Indira and Sanjay Gandhi were real people.
In the case of Satanic Verses too he hid behind the same fig leaf launching cheap attacks on the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his blessed household, outraging his billion-plus believers.

The outrage was deliberate, just as most of his books have been deliberately offensive and provocative. He loves to provoke and offend because it sells in the West. And Islam and its icons and followers have been a fair game for centuries. Free speech? Gimme a break! Freedom and free speech have nothing to do with it. Even the so-called liberals and Hindutva fanatics cheering for the author and lecturing Muslims on tolerance know it. They love him because the Muslims loathe him.

That said, the way this whole issue has been handled by Muslim leadership — if there's such a thing as Muslim leadership — makes one extremely uncomfortable. Except for Asaduddin Owaisi, the young leader of MIM who saved the day once again, not one Muslim talking head could survive the likes of Arnab Goswami of Times Now, India's answer to Fox News. Once again the bumbling lot did not merely fail to present their case explaining why Rushdie isn't welcome, they managed to make a laughingstock of the whole community.

This week CNN IBN's Sagarika Ghose had two Muslim “leaders” pitted against two “liberals” on the panel. One gentleman, an eminent lawyer associated with the Babri Masjid case, had one hand on his earpiece the whole time as he struggled to make sense of the brutal attacks by the anchor and her guests. And studio guests and audience couldn't understand half the things the other gentleman, a former Maharashtra MLA, kept muttering in a chaotic mix of Urdu and English talking of an “international conspiracy” against Muslims. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Do these guys really represent and speak for a 200-million-strong, diverse community? More important, why do Indian Muslims get repeatedly bogged down in the same old, festering issues when we have far more serious challenges and problems staring us in the face?

As much as I am repelled by Rushdie, I can't help being intrigued by the question that has been raised by others: Why now? Rushdie has apparently been quietly and frequently visiting India over the past few years. Does it have something to do with the assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, next month as some suggest? Given the propensity of political parties to raise such issues to excite the easily excitable Muslim public opinion so they could soothe it later, the possibility cannot be dismissed.

Of course, Rushdie will remain unwelcome as long as he remains unrepentant. And by protesting against his abuse, Muslims are only exercising their democratic rights and the suggestion that they're undermining India's future is ridiculous. We cannot, however, allow characters like Rushdie and controversies like these to define us and our agenda forever. We must choose our battles wisely. For we have far bigger wars ahead of us.

From our political and economic dispossession to our situation in education and employment sectors, the level of our deprivation is simply overwhelming. A TV documentary this week, again on CNN IBN, on the legendary weavers of Benares, literally fighting for survival with their emaciated, starving children, should be a must-watch for every Muslim. It's the same story with the once-famous artisan communities in UP, from Aligarh to Moradabad to Bareilly and Kanpur, and general state of affairs across the Gangetic belt. Indeed, the condition of Muslims in north India, once the power center, is today the worst in the country. When will Muslim leaders and those who claim to champion the community take up these real issues? When will we stop expending all our time and energy on fighting phantoms and chasing chimeras?

Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Gulf-based commentator. Write him at

Source: Arab News

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Satanic Verses Controversy: Salman Rushdie & India's New Theocracy
By Praveen Swami
21 January, 2012
India's secular state is in a state of slow-motion collapse. The contours of a new theocratic dystopia are already evident.
In 300CE, the historian and cleric, Eusebius, fearfully recorded the rise of a new “demon-inspired heresy.” “From innumerable long-extinct blasphemous heresies,” he wrote, the new religion's founder “had made a patchwork of them and brought from Persia a deadly poison with which he infected our own world.”
Manichaeism, a new religion which posited an eternal struggle between good and evil, had dramatically expanded across the ancient world. Less than half-a-century after its rise, though, the faith had been all but annihilated. Bahram II massacred its followers in Persia; in 296, the Roman emperor, Diocletian, decreed its leaders “condemned to the fire with their abominable scriptures.” Khagan Boku Tekin, the Uighur king, made Manichaeism the state religion giving it a home — but even this last redoubt collapsed in 840.
Eusebius' own Christian faith, by contrast, flourished after it won imperial patronage: the word of god grows best in fields watered by the state's pelf, and ploughed by the state's swords.
Salman Rushdie's censoring-out from the ongoing literary festival in Jaipur will be remembered as a milestone that marked the slow motion disintegration of India's secular state. Islamist clerics first pressured the state to stop Mr. Rushdie from entering India; on realising he could not stop, he was scared off with a dubious assassination threat. Fear is an effective censor: the writers Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar, who sought to read out passages from The Satanic Verses as a gesture of solidarity, were stopped from doing so by the festival's organisers.
In a 1989 essay, Ahmad Deedat, an influential neo-fundamentalist who starred in the first phases of the anti-Rushdie campaign, hoped the writer would “die a coward's death, a hundred times a day, and eventually when death catches up with him, may he simmer in hell for all eternity.” He thanked Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for his “sagacious” decision to ban The Satanic Verses. Now, another Indian Prime Minister has helped further Mr. Deedat's dream.
The betrayal of secular India in Jaipur, though, is just part of a far wider treason: one that doesn't have to do with Muslim clerics alone, but a state that has turned god into a public-sector undertaking.
Underwriting faith
Few Indians understand the extent to which the state underwrites the practice of their faith. The case of the Maha Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years at Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik, is a case in point. The 2001 Mela in Allahabad, activist John Dayal has noted in a stinging essay, involved state spending of over Rs.1.2 billion — 12,000 taps that supplied 50.4 million litres of drinking water; 450 kilometres of electric lines and 15,000 streetlights; 70,000 toilets; 7,100 sanitation workers, 11 post offices and 3,000 phone lines; 4,000 buses and trains.
That isn't counting the rent that ought to have been paid on the 15,000 hectares of land used for the festival — nor the salaries of the hundreds of government servants administering the Kumbh.
Last year, the Uttar Pradesh police sought a staggering Rs.2.66 billion to pay for the swathe of electronic technologies, helicopters and 30,000 personnel which will be needed to guard the next Mela in 2013. There are no publicly available figures on precisely how much the government will spend on other infrastructure — but it is instructive to note that an encephalitis epidemic that has claimed over 500 children's lives this winter drew a Central aid of just Rs.0.28 billion.
The State's subsidies to the Kumbh Mela, sadly, aren't an exception. Muslims wishing to make the Haj pilgrimage receive state support; so, too, do Sikhs travelling to Gurdwaras of historic importance in Pakistan. Hindus receive identical kinds of largesse, in larger amounts. The state helps underwrite dozens of pilgrimages, from Amarnath to Kailash Mansarovar. Early in the last decade, higher education funds were committed to teaching pseudo-sciences like astrology; in 2001, the Gujarat government even began paying salaries to temple priests.
In 2006, the Delhi government provided a rare official acknowledgment that public funds are routinely spent on promoting god. In a study of its budget expenditure, it said it provided “religious services, i.e. grants for religious purpose including repairs and maintenance of ancient temples, contribution to religious institutions and for memorial of religious leaders like Guru Nanak Birth Anniversary, Dussehra Exhibitions [sic., throughout]”.
The study did not reveal precisely how much had been spent on what kind of religious promotion. It did, however, note that spending on a broad category called “cultural, recreational and religious activities” had increased steadily — from Rs.526.5 million in 2003-2004, to Rs.751 million in 2006-2007. In 2006-2007, these kinds of activities accounted for 0.74% of Delhi's overall budget — ahead of, say, environmental protection (0.17%), mining and manufacturing (0.59%), and civil defence (0.12%).
India's clerics, regardless of their faith, have long been intensely hostile to state regulation of religion — witness the country's failure to rid itself of the faith-based laws that govern our personal lives. In the matter of the perpetuation of their religion, though, the state is a welcome ally.
The contours of the bizarre theocratic dystopia that could replace the secular state are already evident. The state tells us we may not read the Satanic Verses, or Aubrey Menen's irreverent retelling of the Ramayana; it chooses not to prosecute the vandals who block stores from stocking D.N. Jha's masterful Holy Cow, James Laine's history of Shivaji, or Paul Courtright's explorations of oedipal undertones in Hindu mythology.
Regulation on what we eat, drink
It doesn't end there: the state regulates, on god's behalf, what we may eat or drink — witness the proliferation of bans on beef, and proscriptions on alcohol use in so-called holy cities. It ensures children pray in morning assemblies funded by public taxes, provides endowments for denomination schools and funds religious functions. It pays for prayers before state functions, and promotes pseudo-sciences like astrology. And, yes: it censors heretics, like M.F. Husain or Mr. Rushdie.
Even the rule of law has been contracted-out to god's agents. Last week, a self-appointed Sharia court issued orders to expel Christian priests from Jammu and Kashmir; neither the police, the judicial system nor political parties stepped in. In many north Indian States, local caste and religious tyrannies have brutally punished transgressions of religious laws. In 2010, the National Crime Records Bureau data show, a staggering 178 people were killed for practising witchcraft.
For decades now, Indian liberals have shied away from confronting theism, choosing instead to collaborate with the marketing of allegedly tolerant traditions. Back in 2005, the Human Resource Development Ministry set up a committee to consider how state-funded schools could best promote tolerance. Lingadevaru Halemane, a linguist and playwright, made clear the committee was chasing a chimera. “These days,” he argued, “whichever religion dominates in the area, they open the schools.” Local culture, he said bluntly, “will be dominated by the dominant group.”
Spurious secularism
Leaving aside the question of whether India's religious traditions are in fact tolerant — a subject on which the tens of thousands of victims of communal and caste violence might have interesting opinions — this spurious secularism has served in the main to institutionalise and sharpen communal boundaries. It has also allowed clerics to exercise influence over state policy — insulating themselves from a secularising world.
The strange thing is this: India's people, notwithstanding their religiosity, aren't the ones pushing the state to guard god's cause. India's poor send their children to private schools hoping they will learn languages and sciences, not prayer. Indian politics remains focussed on real-world issues: no party campaigns around seeking more funds for mosque domes or temple elephants.
Eight years ago, scholar Meera Nanda argued that “India is a country that most needs a decline in the scope of religion in civil society for it to turn its constitutional promise of secular democracy into a reality.” “But,” she pointed out, “India is a country least hospitable to such a decline”. Dr. Nanda ably demonstrated the real costs of India's failure to secularise: among them, the perpetuation of caste and gender inequities, the stunting of reason and critical facilities needed for economic and social progress; the corrosive growth of religious nationalism.
India cannot undo this harm until god and god's will are ejected from our public life. No sensible person would argue that the school curriculum ought to discourage eight-year-olds from discovering that the tooth fairy does not exist. No sensible person ought argue, similarly, that some purpose is served by buttressing the faith of adults in djinns, immaculate conceptions, or armies of monkeys engineering trans-oceanic bridges. It is legitimate for individuals to believe that cow-urine might cure their cancer — not for the state to subsidise this life-threatening fantasy.
In a 1927 essay, philosopher Bertrand Russell observed that theist arguments boiled down to a single, vain claim: “Look at me: I am such a splendid product that there must be design in the universe.”
The time has come for Indian secular-democrats to assert the case for a better universe: a universe built around citizenship and rights, not the pernicious identity politics the state and its holy allies encourage.
Source: The Hindu
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Satanic Verses: Rafiq Zakaria’s open letter to Salman Rushdie published in 1988
By Rafiq Zakaria

23 October, 1988

Rafiq Zakaria, Islamic scholar and well-known congressman, vigorously defends Rajiv Gandhi’s decision to ban The Satanic Verses in this open letter to its author Salman Rushdie published in The Illustrated Weekly Of India, 23 October, 1988.


I have read with interest your open letter to our Prime Minister Mr Rajiv Gandhi, in which you have pleaded for a review of the ban on your book The Satanic Verses.

You have made fun of the fact that the order was issued by the finance ministry. Well, your information is half-baked. It was reported in the press that the decision was taken by the entire cabinet; but as the ban is to be executed by the customs, which falls under the finance ministry, no other ministry could have issued it.

This aside, it is for Rajiv Gandhi to reply to your letter: he may ignore it as most heads of government do.

I am not one of those, who has not read your book. I have, and am interested to know from you the replies to some questions, as I feel they may help me to understand you better and also for you to plead your case more effectively. We, in India. are ever so worried about communal violence, which erupts on the slightest pretext, we cannot allow a writer, whatever be his motive, to provoke it.

You say in your letter to Mr Gandhi that you ‘strongly deny’ that your book is ‘a direct attack on Islam’. Further, that ‘the section of the book in question .... deals with a prophet who is not called Muhammad’.

I have read your book. Like you, I have also been a student of Islam. Your statements, therefore, surprise me. I feel you are going back on your own objective just to get the ban lifted. Maybe I am wrong. I will, therefore, appreciate if you will clarify your position by replying openly to the following questions:

1. What is the significance of the title of your book The Satanic Verses? Has it not some historical connection? Do not the verses which refer to the three goddesses, condemned as Satanic and repudiated by Allah, the same as your reference to them in your novel? Your words are so clear that no other inference seems possible: “These verses are banished from the true recitation, al-qur’an. New verses are thundered in their place.” “Shall He have daughters and you sons?” Mahound recites. “That would be a fine division!” “These are but names you have dreamed of, you and your fathers. Allah vests no authority in them.”

2. Is Jahilia not the same word as used in Muslim annals for “the era of ignorance”—Jahilia means ignorance—the era before the advent of Islam? Your description is so apt:
“The city of Jahilia is built entirely of sand, its structures formed of the desert whence it rises. It is a sight to wonder at: walled, four-gated, the whole of it a miracle worked by its citizens, who have learned the trick of transforming the fine white dune-sand of those forsaken parts—the very stuff of inconstancy—the quintessence of unsettlement, shifting, treachery, lack-of-form—and have turned it, by alchemy, into the fabric of their newly invented permanence. These people are a mere three or four generations removed from their nomadic past, when they were as rootless as the dunes, or rather rooted in the knowledge that the journeying itself was home.”

3. Whom had you in mind when you delineated the character of Mahound? Do your descriptions of his various activities not fit those of the Prophet Muhammad? I can quote passage after passage to show the coincidence, but it will be too lengthy; moreover most of them are so offensive that I shudder to reproduce them.

4. From where have you drawn the names of the three goddesses: Lat, Uzza and Manat? They are certainly not the products of your imagination? No one reading about them in your book can think otherwise.

5. Is Hamza not the same as Prophet Muhammad’s uncle of the same name? And are his encounters with Hind, as depicted by you, not representative of what happened in the early annals of Islam?

6. Is Abu Simbel in your novel not a reflection of Abu Sufiyan, the inveterate enemy of the Prophet? And Hind, whom you characterise so graphically, not his wife?

7. Is Salman—your namesake—called Persian in your book, not the same as Salman Farsi, a companion of the Prophet?

8. Is Bilal not the first Muezzin of Islam, whom you describe as “the slave Bilal, the one Mahound freed, an enormous black monster, this one, with a voice to match his voice”?

9. Is Zamzam, referred to in your novel, not the well held sacred by Muslims? Here is your description: “The city’s water comes from underground streams and springs..., next to the House of the Black Stone.”

10. Does the description of the “Black Stone” in your novel not fit that of Ka’aba? Here are your words: “The graves of Ismail and his mother Hagar the Egyptian lie by the north-west face of the House of the Black Stone, in an enclosure surrounded by a low wall.”

These are some of the coincidences; there are many others. You, unlike most authors, have not mentioned that the characters in your novels do not bear any resemblance to persons living or dead. Can you, with your hand on your heart, say that they really don’t resemble the characters and situations in the life of the Prophet of Islam. And if they do. what should the authorities do to control a likely occurrence which you as well as I know may disturb the tranquillity of the land.

I have not referred to your section on Ayesha; I found it rather confusing, where you have cleverly mixed fact with fiction. This does not apply, I feel, to your section on Mahound, which represents, to use your own words” the result of five years of work on Islam, which has been central to my life’. Apart from the Muslim politicians, whom you mention in your open letter to Mr Gandhi, you will be surprised that some of our best intellectuals-both writers and poets—have come out against you: they are J P Dixit, Nissim Ezekiel, Jean Kalgutkar, Vrinda Nabar, Vaskar Nandy, V Raman and Ashim Roy. In a letter to The Indian Post they refer to your statement that you knew Islam best and that was why you had talked about it and observe: ‘How does he ''talk”about this religion? Its founder is named Mahound. Rushdie has not invented this name. This was the name given to the Prophet Mohammed by his European detractors as a term of abuse (‘Ma’ from ‘Mahomet’ added to ‘hound’) and used frequently in various European eschatologies as a creature belonging to the lowest depths of Hell, as the Devil himself.’

After analysing your treatment further, they summarise your approach thus:

How has Rushdie treated the other pillars of Islamic faith? Ayesha, the youngest wife of the Prophet and the one who is regarded as one of the highest authorities of the Traditions is shown as “clad only in butterflies, leading an entire village, lemming-like into the Arabian Sea”. The Ka’aba, regarded by the Muslims as the only consecrated spot on earth, is treated no better. Disguised as the “Tent of Black Stone called Ten Curtains”, it has twelve prostitutes with names of the twelve wives of Mahound to add ''the tempting spices of profanity”. These “tempting spices” were apparently necessary to increase the number of pilgrims. Then what else remains of the basic core of the Islamic faith? The prophet is the Devil, the law-givers are sexual perverts, and the Ka’aba and the Haj examples of depravity and greed. The Koran is of course only a collection of satanic verses.

The signatories conclude:

‘We, the undersigned, are all non-Muslims. We are, therefore, obviously not subscribers to the Islamic faith. We believe that any critique of that faith has to be restrained, reasoned and full of the spirit of respecting diverse cultures and faiths. India’s unity and harmony demands it. It is for such harmony and unity that we demand that the ban on this book be not lifted.’ What have you to say, Mr Rushdie, to these friends who are no friends of Mr Rajiv Gandhi and are known upholders of freedom of expression?

Lastly, as one born to Muslim parents and brought up, I think, under Islamic traditions, may I ask you whether you honestly believe that your book will not upset Muslims. Mr Khushwant Singh, who holds you in high esteem, advised your publisher, Penguins, against its publication as he felt that it would injure the religious feelings of Muslims and may disturb the law and order situation. Mr Zamir Ansari, Penguins’s representative in India, confirmed this to me though he said a confidential advice sought by Penguins should not have been publicised by Mr Singh. But that is another matter. The fact remains that Mr Singh is no friend of the Government of India—in fact he is one of its most bitter critics—and his opinion has been unequivocal. So is that of Mr M V Kamath, an eminent journalist, who never finds anything right with Mr Rajiv Gandhi. He said that Mr Rushdie’s book is full of ‘despicable ideas’. If Nehru was alive he would have banned it.

I ask you in the same manner as you have asked Mr Gandhi, our prime minister, whether you consider this ban as really uncalled for, in view of the danger that many persons in public life feel it poses to communal harmony and peace in India. Is democracy a licence to do or undo anything by anyone or everyone?

Some idealists in the past might have dreamt of it; but is it really practical?

May I also remind you that it was Lord Macaulay who incorporated the need for such a ban in our legal system to prevent disorder; it is not Mr Rajiv Gandhi’s invention. Mr Soli Sorabjee, whose legal eminence is undisputed, has argued against the ban; but he is a poor judge of public reaction. That is why,like his mentor Mr Nani Palkhivala, he wanted to be in politics but gave up the idea. The Times of India, in its editorial, has answered both you and him effectively:

‘No, dear Rushdie, we do not wish to build a repressive India. On the contrary we are trying our best to build a liberal India where we can all breathe freely. But in order to build such an India, we have to preserve the India that exists. That may not be a pretty India. But this is the only India we possess.'

Do not pontificate, Mr Rushdie; be logical and face the facts. Answer your critics if you can.

Yours truly,

Rafiq Zakaria

Source: The Illustrated Weekly of India

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Salman Rushdie's Indian Mullah critics, listen to the message of Satanic Verses
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Salman Rushdie's Indian Mullah critics, the beardless as much as the bearded, have reason to celebrate. They have forced the government into surrender to their demand of keeping Rushdie away. How much ill-will they have created against Muslims in the country in this process, of course, does not matter to them. They are in a state of Jihad against India, the same as their Pakistani counterparts. Read the Urdu press where most of the columnists are Mullahs, some openly bearded, some with their beards well hidden in their stomachs. You would seldom find a good word about India. Nothing positive at all.

Salman Rushdie is a sideshow. It just came in handy as he was coming this time on the eve of important Assembly elections. This gave them an opportunity to show to their patrons how they could bully even the mighty Congress party into submission again. These Mullahs had only recently forced politicians to announce reservations for Muslims. From 4.9 percent (the Congress) to 18 percent (the Samajwadi). This has completely vitiated the atmosphere. A Hindu-Muslim polarisation is emerging where there was none. This would only benefit the enemies of India among the Hindu obscurantists. But, of course, the Mullahs do not care. Indeed they need the other; both sets of enemies of India feed on each other.

As for Salman Rushdie, does his novel Satanic Verses not offend me? Of course, it does. Are my religious sensibilities not hurt? Of course, they are. Particularly the fact that he gave prostitutes of Mecca the names of our beloved Prophet’s wives whom we revere even more than our mothers. But I think I am more hurt reading newspapers everyday when I see Mohammads reportedly committing the most heinous crimes; they lie, cheat, loot, rape, murder, massacre, do everything dreadful you can imagine. More than fifty percent of male Muslims are named Mohammad or Ahmad and as everybody knows we are the most corrupt people on earth. Prostitution is a profession Muslims women are very good at. Even when forced into business by devilish Muslims, Muslim prostitutes command a premium. Looking for prostitutes rich and corrupt Saudi men prefer to go to Muslim Indonesia rather than non-Muslim Thailand, for they can engage in halal prostitution there. Even today some of these prostitutes, I am sure, have the names of our dear Prophet’s wives and our dearest, most revered mothers. Like the name Mohammad or Ahmad among Muslim men, prophet’s wives’ names are the most popular among Muslim women.

So why should I be particularly offended if an atheist cultural Muslim and a great writer out to poke fun at us, seeking to grab our attention, in order to convey his message, tries to offend us by using that particular literary device. The important thing for me is to look at where he is pointing. All great men and women, scientists, artists, reformer, prophets, offend and blaspheme. That is part of their job profile. Prophet Mohammad was the greatest blasphemer, as was Jesus Christ before him, Moses and Mahatma Buddha, Hazrat Noah, even earlier and so on. They all blasphemed their ancestral religions, cultures, traditional mores. They all offended the religious sensibilities of their people. Their scandalised people were always their bitter opponents, often trying to kill them, before converting to their ideas, accepting their message and becoming stalwarts of the new Deen.

The Juhala, that our so-called Ulama are, cannot possibly read and understand The satanic Verses or any other piece of literature for that matter. Not many even among those who do normally read and enjoy literature are able to follow Rushdie’s fantasies to the end. Rushdie is a difficult read for many. But for the Mullahs the book would not have sold so much and would not be available for free on the internet.

Satanic verses is a book of fiction that contains dream sequences within the dream of a demented person. It is wrong to treat it as a discourse on Islam. However, like all dreams, realities do enter into the dream sequences. The episode of Satanic Verses is most likely pure fiction and creation of the determined enemies of Islam in its infant years. Deeply offended by Prophet Mohammad’s many blasphemies against their gods and goddesses, belief in whom was a part of Prophet Mohammad’s ancestral religion, the Quraish leaders, later stalwarts of Islam, wanted to kill him or defame him and his message in any way possible. They did many things in this context. Satanic verses could be just a part of that effort at maligning the messenger of God. But the fact remains that Arab Muslims of that period mentioned it and it was one of the relatively less known parts of Islamic history until Mullahs made Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses an issue.

Mullahs claim to be hurt with the publication of the book. But there are things that hurt other too. Don’t they know that the very existence of the Holy Quran and Muslims hurts the religious sentiments of many Christians; the message of the Gospels hurts many Jews and so on. Hindus, being the most ancient, have the right to claim feeling hurt at the existence of every other religion. So what do we do? Kill each other? Don’t let one come into other’s country. Live separately? Throw rotten eggs at each other? As Ahl-e-Hadeesis do and suggest we should.

This may be news the Mullahs that others too can feel hurt. But they do. An ordinary Muslim like me too feels hurt, for instance, sometimes. I feel hurt the most when I find a Muslim, particularly one calling himself Mohammad, lying, cheating, killing, raping. No matter how offended the Quraish of Mecca were with the Prophet’s blasphemies, they never accused him of lying or cheating or any other misconduct. No one called him intolerant of even his worst enemies and his own blasphemers. They continued to consider him Al-Ameen (The Trustworthy). Never was a word breathed about him by his enemies about even the remotest sexual misdemeanour on his part. If anyone really loved Mohammad, as Mullahs claim Muslims do, they would follow him. But we Muslims, well, we can kill and die in Mohammad’s name, saving his honour, but follow him, no we can’t do that. Too difficult. Impossible. Not in our DNA. So what do we do? We create an image of Mohammad, a deviant, pervert, cruel Mohammad, whom we can follow. This is precisely what Salafi Arabs did and today’s Salafi Muslims follow.

It is only Arab Muslims, the Quraish descendants of the original inveterate enemies of Islam, who captured power after killing all members of his family in the 48th year of his demise, who started spreading stories of his “sexual prowess”, paedophilia, and other perversions, even his brutality and intolerance of Jews and other non-Muslims to justify their own predilections. Nothing in his character or the Holy Quran shows any of this intolerance or brutality or perversion. But it is the Arab Muslims who have told and even in contemporary Saudi Arabia tell stories defaming the Prophet to justify their own perversions and cruelties and intolerance. Read the classical Sira written by Salafi Arabs.

Now when an atheist Rushdie or other non-Muslims pick up these stories and tell it in their own way, make what they would make of it, we feel hurt. But do we have a right to feel hurt, particularly when we are not calling Salafi Muslims, who spread these malicious stories in the first place, with the names they deserve. The most popular televangelist among Muslims is one Dr Zakir Naik, a darling of Salafis, who sends God’s blessings to Yazid, the killer of the Prophet’s family, every time he quotes him or takes the name of this accursed person in some context. He justifies all kinds of sexual perversions in the name of Islam. But what of him. So do Saudi Ulema and Qazis, religious scholars and judges. It is the Ahl-e-Hadeesis, not a word criticising whom can appear in the Muslim Press, who finance and organise Zakir Naik’s perversions.

Now take the very name of this Saudi-financed sect, Ahl-e-Hadees. Does the very term Ahl-e-Hadees not offend an ordinary Muslim who believes that the Holy Quran is his primary scripture? Ahl-e-Hadees means people or Muslims who believe in Hadees, that is the so-called sayings of the Prophet that were collected and concocted hundreds of years after the demise of the Prophet. This was done clearly because the Quran could not be changed and another scripture was required to serve the purpose of rulers. These descendants of the inveterate enemies of Islam had to of necessity rule in the name of Islam. Their ancestors had converted to Islam after the Prophet’s victory at Mecca obviously so they could defeat the new religion from within and capture its power, use the energies it had generated for Arab expansion and imperialism.

It is this that Salman Rushdie is pointing to in his own perverted way. The victory at Mecca and the conversion of the entire city to Islam. Some must have obviously converted impressed by the bloodless victory, completely unexpected generosity of the Prophet who – unprecedented for Arabia in such situations – announced a general amnesty for all including the vicious war criminals, and so on. But many of the elite who had lost power apparently joined as an attempt at a shot at power working from within. And how successful they were! In 24 years one member of their Umayyads clan became the all-powerful Caliph of Islam. Usman bin Affan was a generous and pious man and an early Muslim. He had fought for Islam and sacrificed a lot. But he appointed all his relatives, the former elite of Mecca, as administrators in every position of power, including Muawiah the son of Abu Sufian and the father of Yezid as the governor of all-important Syria.

Now Salman Rushdie’s demented character is imagining this newly all-Muslim Mecca where clearly many have joined Islam out of convenience and not conviction. Apart from the political elite, professional prostitutes could be another such group. Islam has no room for prostitution or any kind of illicit sex. They can’t be a happy lot. Some of them must have already had the very popular names of the wives of the Prophet, as they do today. Mischievously, Rushdie gives all of them these names. He is trying to tell us that the rot in Islam dates to the day the Prophet announced a general amnesty and allowed all of the Meccans to covert.

Did the Prophet have a choice? He was a fount of compassion for humanity, Rahmat-ul-lil-Aalemeeen (A Blessing for all the worlds). He could have at least punished the war criminals and thus saved Islam and his own family from future decimation. But this is the speculation of an ordinary mortal blessed with hindsight, knowing what happened soon after. The Prophet was a prophet. There is no point speculating on that, questioning his decision. But one thing is clear in the light of what happened later: the rot started from that day of Victory and general amnesty and permission for all to convert. Of course, the Prophet could hardly have told them not to convert. He had been appointed as messenger in order to convert them to Islam and they were now willing to convert; whatever his reservations might have been, he could hardly say no.
What is Rushdie’s goal? What has he set out to achieve in The Satanic Verses? In his own words, Rushdie has set out "to name the unnameable, to point out frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep." And he doesn't care "if rivers of blood flow from the cuts his verses inflict". He does not recognise any jurisdiction except that of his Muse. But the world Rushdie is going to shape is full of "walking corpses, great crowds of the dead, all of them refusing to admit they are done for, corpses mutinously continuing to behave like living people, shopping, catching buses, flirting, going home to make love, smoking cigarettes." And this is why he has decided to use the technique of extreme provocation.

What is the task before Rushdie that is so important? Worth paying the ultimate price for a 'poet's work'? What does he actually do in his Verses? Well, he has tried to sow doubt and confusion in the minds of the faithful. He has asked questions that they are too dead to think about. Certainty is death, for Rushdie. Confusion, fife. This man must be a manifestation of the Satan then, the faithful would naturally say. After all, sowing doubt and confusion in the minds of believers is precisely the task allotted to Shaitan in the divine scheme of things. But what his Muslim critics have, of course, forgotten is the repeated Quranic injunction to think and consider the revelations and not to believe in them unthinkingly. But why and what would you think if you have no doubt, no confusion, no questions?

One thing, however, we should learn from this tragic point in our history to which Rushdie’s demented character is directing our attention. Having too many Muslims is not necessarily a good thing. Let us stop trying to convert people unnecessarily and feeling elated at even the likes of Chander Mohan converting to Islam, even if they do so merely to commit rape of a respectable lady. Also, let us stop forcing our children to adopt our religions. Religion should not be, indeed cannot be hereditary. Let us teach our children the essentials of all religions and let them choose when they grow up, when they are capable of understanding the nature of religion, spirituality, divinity and so on. Too many Muslims are not necessarily a good thing for Islam. This to me is the message of Satanic Verses and I think this is a message worth pondering over. Had Salman Rushdie not been forced to bear the crescent of being a Muslim, he would probably not have felt forced to define and explain his identity in terms of why he was or was not a Muslim. This business of his feeling forced to convert to Islam to save his life and then reconverting to atheism when he discovers that Mullahs cannot be appeased even with his conversion is a shameful business. Shameful for him, shameful for the rest of the Muslim community! He has paid enough price for being born in a Muslim family. Now let us let him be.

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1 comment:

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.