The Book That Divided The World

Causing death and untold suffering

Photo by Ryan Klaus on Unsplash

In the 1970’s, probably earlier, Asians began to migrate to Britain. They could do so easily, being from the former British Empire. They brought families or sent for them later, after they had a home and a job or a business.

The British called them Asians or, in the perjorative, Paks. Their children wanted to fit in and went to school and then university. Meanwhile, an Asian writer had a problem getting a book published as it was so controversial. Finally, The Satanic Verses was published in 1988. It was nominated for prizes and won some awards. Salman Rushdie, the author, made lots of money.

Life in Britain carried on for Asians, but fearing unrest, Rajiv Ghandi banned the import of the book in India and in 1989, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini, declared a Fatwa against Salman Rushdie. A fatwa is an order to kill or murder.

The reaction was powerful because the book refers to verses in the Quaran to do with three Meccan “goddesses”. These references in the magical realty book are considered to be blasphemous as Islam is monotheist and that could not be tolerated by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Life for young Asians continued normally for a while, but when going home from university for term breaks they found their mothers were upset, so they went to mosques to learn more. For some, this simply deepened their faith in Islam while others became what we term “radicalized”. In Britain, we now call most Asians “Muslims” and other people of smaller religions are called by the name of that religion, but we don’t call white people “Christians” as most are not.

Over a period of time these radicalized Muslims gathered in secrecy and planned to punish the non-Islamic world for the insult made by Rushdie, and for the hedonistic lifestyle they believe we live. They learned how to fly aircraft and entered many countries legally for the purpose of terrorism.

The first we knew of this was the explosion in the PanAm flight that came down over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1989. But the most notorious act of terrorism was September 11, 2001 when aircraft were flown into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and another plane failed due to the heroism of passengers who overcame the terrorists, but perished with them in a crash into the fields of Pennsylvania.

President G. W. Bush foolishly called these attacks an act of war and invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. This led to acts of terrorism in Britain, France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Kenya, to name the worst affected. Tunisia had an attack too, although it is a Muslim country. Many European tourists go there. The London Underground had a train blown up in July 2005, while two buses were bombed simultaneously. On bridges, vehicles were driven into people on the sidewalk three times, a soldier was knifed and beheaded, and a bomb was detonated at a concert. A van with a bomb was driven into Glasgow airport, and France suffered much the same fate.

In all the acts of terrorism, many Muslims were killed too. But Salman Rushdie, in hiding, was untouched. However, people involved in the publication of his book have been killed.

It was last year when Rushdie was attacked while on a stage in New York, that I learned the history of the book he wrote, knowing it would upset many, many, people. I heard British Muslims tell how they decided not to fit in any longer, although many did not take up terrorism. I listened to facts I had not known as I was living overseas where news is less concentrated.

My own feelings are not important here. I have lost those I love in the acts of terrorism. I have to remember that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. But no one needed freedom from anything in this case. Just a Caliphate to rule.

The West is against censorship and very for freedom of speech. I am too, but I take responsibility for what I write. Salman Rushdie has not. I cannot excuse him, but neither can I condone the terrorism in so many countries, by bombs, aircraft, vans, and knives.

There are so many Muslim countries and emirs. But one Muslim in England insulted them knowingly and caused so much death. I have writer friends who say Rushdie is a great writer. I read “Midnight’s Children” and found it quite unspectacular. But mostly, in my writing community, we get on with writing. I am mainly a Poet, but prose writing and essays are increasingly in my repertoire. I love to write about nature.

This essay has been brewing for months but encountering an Afghan writer here on Medium has given more understanding of the Muslim way of thinking. I owe him a debt of gratitude. Thanks also to a Medium staff writer.

Please note that this is an overview, not a detailed study. For that you can use websites and books.

Thank you to BBC Radio 4 for interviews with Muslim men, discussions about censorship, and other incidental pieces of information.


By Chrisssie Morris Brady

I've read poetry since I was nine and have written creatively since I was fourteen (probably long before that). After writing book reviews and social comment, I decided I wanted to write poetry. I have no formal training, but I surround myself with poets and their writing. I am honing my craft.
I have two published collections which I don't feel good about, but have been published by and other publications. I live on the south coast of England with my daughter. I am seriously ill.

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