My First Time with Salman Rushdie

Amongst the most memorable names to cross my ears as a child, growing up in a South Asian Muslim household, was that of (sir) Salman Rushdie. There was always an air of frustration, anger and utter hatred that seemed to accompany it’s mere mention by those of my kin. I was unaware, as a child, precisely what all the fuss was about. What I ended up gathering from the various snippets of conversations and outbursts was that he was a writer who had written some sort of novel in which the Prophet Muhammad, alongside Islam in general, was portrayed in a most vile sense. The grouping of words of those around me – including the words of those on television who would discuss him – was enough to create an authoritative perspective on the issue that I slowly, with a naive mind, took on as my own.

Regardless of what sort of ‘enlightenment’ phased me as my years increased, that opinion of Mr. Rushdie as a vile figure persisted. It wasn’t a conscious acknowledgement – but the mere mention of the name or his novel The Satanic Verses would immediately spur reddened emotions.  I was never vocal in my dislike for Mr. Rushdie – he honestly has never served for even a topic of casual conversation. He was just a floating name, a floating figure, becoming increasingly irrelevant as he seemingly rode on the coattails of the remnants of a rather fatal fatwa issued, initially,  by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for primarily political reasons in 1989, ten years after the Iranian Revolution.

I had skimmed (with much guilt) through The Satanic Verses in my first year at university, out of pure curiosity. Trivialization of familiar words and unholy parallels caught my already made-up mind and I quickly stuffed it back into the array of used books which lay before me. A year later, a friend mentioned how in a class she had taken about Indian history a book by him had been assigned and she urged me to read it. Skimming through Midnight’s Children did not illicit any sort of interest within my, once again, made-up mind and it remains on my shelf, gathering dust along with unfortunate  purchases of the likes of Camille Paglia and Noam Chomsky.

And when it was recently announced, on March 31st, that the undergraduate Student Union of my university would be hosting ‘an evening with Sir Salman Rushdie,’ my eyes immediately perked up. What an odd and random choice for a speaker – what has brought him back to relevancy, I thought to myself. At first, there was speculation that it was an April Fool’s prank given the date of the announcement. But very soon it became apparent that it was not and over 800 students RSVP’d as attending on the Book of the Face.

My concern was not for his presence on campus – I fully supported his right to come and spread his nonsense   – but I was surprised and curious as to why and how the Student Union had gone about choosing such a figure for their speaker of the year, essentially, especially given the rather large Muslim student constituency which falls under them and helped pay for Mr. Rushdie’s presence.

It just came across as poor taste, really.

But I was determined to go and see the man whose name had been a sort of fixture – of the peek-a-boo persuasion – throughout my life. Many Muslim students on campus debated attending the lecture and many non-Muslim students generally questioned the choice. As far as I was concerned, while my opinions of him were strong, I ultimately knew very little. Attending the lecture, I figured, would hopefully serve as a means through which I could humble myself.

Please prove me wrong, Salman. Please don’t live up to the controversial fuss of writing The Satanic Verses, being Roman Polanski’s over-enthusiastic unofficial advocate and the fatherly figure in the life of former wife Padma Lakshmi.

Just …put all that controversy aside and talk about literature. Don’t be the irrelevant writer, of fame past, who continues to cultivate his persona on a controversy, while emblematic in ways, over twenty years old.

Please.

Rushdie walked out onto the stage, in a room filled with around 700 students, primarily of the Cultural/Literature Studies persuasion (thick rimmed glasses, tight jeans, White-man’s burden mindset disguised in a poor facade of moral relativism), and the response was thunderous. A friend and I – two young women donning bright veils – had only found seats at the very front, in the direct view of both Rushdie and vast and salivating audience. While we hoped otherwise, we felt curious and awaiting glances fall in our direction.

He began with a joke. He was articulate, eloquent, and witty. He knew what to say and precisely how to frame it. His syntax was, simply put, rather appealing. He was charismatic.

He immediately dived into his lecture, discussing the interplay between literature and the private and public lives of individuals. Literature, he explained, was the means through which news would reach the common man long before the days of the print media. Through literature, people would learn of the plight of poverty in their countries, wars in other states and issues relating to their own governments. It had real power – a power which has seemingly diminished with the increasingly trivialized nature of the news which treats sensationalist entertainment as serious issues of concern.

But Rushdie wanted to make a case for the ever-relevancy of literature – he claimed that it is precisely literature, as a medium of storytelling, that serves to truly examine the lives we lead and the world in which we live which claims are certainly far from ‘ordinary.’ He points to David Egger’s Zeitoun and What is the What as examples of this sort of contemporary story-telling which blends the spheres of journalism and literature. Such literature commands a humanization of history – it goes up against the ‘official history’ and allows us, the writers and readers, to really engage with who we are, our narratives and our place in this world – essentially, our whole existence.

Storytelling, according to Rushdie, is an integral part of our existence as human beings. We are the only creatures, he claims, who tell stories. Therefore there is something about the story, about the narrative, which creates an innate attraction within us to it. And it is most important during times of political upheaval as it sustains the humanity of everything. After all, at the center of literature is the human being.

The public and private spheres, Rushdie continued, have clashed together in a way unseen before. There is no longer a space between them; they are no longer individual spaces – they are one. He cites the example of Jane Austen, who lived during the time of the Napoleonic Wars, yet when you read any of her novels you would never come close to a hint of the presence of war. Politics and worldly events were not a part – an integral part, especially – of one’s life and existence. It has only been recent that we’ve adopted such a characterization of ourselves.

He quotes Herclitus, who once said: a man’s character is his fate. You are your destiny. Charlie Brown was and is Charlie Brown because he could never quite kick that football. Lucy was Lucy because she would never fail to remove that football from Charlie Brown’s fast approaching kick. To change that destiny would be to change their characters. Were Lucy to not remove the football and were Charlie Brown to kick it, both characters would have lost a very real part of what made them them.

Yet we also know that this issue of our character being determined by our fate is not necessarily always the case, such as with acts of violence. Regardless of whether a person was  a good father, a good son, a bad husband or a lousy cook – when those three thousand individuals were killed on 9/11, as per the example used by Rushdie, the wealth of their character was not based on where their destiny led them. And even then, we are well aware of the importance of the character in our ability to make a decision; in our capability or inability to pick up arms, use unkind words and commit acts of horror. The difference between two people living in the same war, poverty and plague stricken area, of which one picks up arms and the other resists, is simply their character. It is our character which is the fine line between life and death, between good and evil; between everything.

Literature upholds the importance of a multifaceted character, a sort of character which needs to be promoted. We live as multiple selves, thus our identity must be one which open and broad rather than one which is narrow. A narrow identity, Rushdie claims, leads to conflict; it is hard to find common group and the self becomes essentialized. The broad identity, however, allows for increased and growing common ground; we relate to others easily thus the impetus for conflict is hindered.

Literature creates and promotes a broad identity; it is the ‘civilized’ response to the persisting problems plaguing our world.

Rushdie then finally tackled the textual elephant in the room: The Satanic Verses controversy.

His entire discussion thus far seemed to culminate in what he discusses primarily about the controversy and its implications. According to Rushdie, and I’m somewhat inclined to agree, when the book came out people were being defined by what made them angry. Your commitment to your identity – in this case Islamic – was based on the sort of anger you showed towards Rushdie and his Satanic associates.

This led Rushdie to ask us who exactly has the power to tell stories? Who has the power to tell the grand narrative? The answer, Rushdie says, is us. We should be the ones in charge of the narrative.

In an open society the narrative is constantly being challenged, constantly influx, and thus consistently changing; it is never ‘changed.’ Rather it remains in that state of change with no real end. To limit people in how they create and engage with a or the narrative is to go against the earlier discussed basic nature of man to which storytelling and creating is innate.

The novel persists, despite the internet, radio, and other various forms of media, because it upholds and values the voice of the individual. There is no ownership of this voice – no corporate interest, no lobby group. It is just a voice that speaks to whomever is there, waiting to listen.

Thus came the end to a rather well-structured, humorous and charming lecture. I sat there, sifting through my pages of notes I had been rigorously writing throughout the hour and a half. I sat there, applauding and smiling – some questionable underlying assumptions aside, his lecture was a pleasure to listen to. As someone with an interest in using literature as a form and tool of history, I was immediately consumed by his words which certainly weren’t new but did a rather attractive job of putting together various existing ideas. I turned to my friend, grinned and said “That was really, really great.” She smiled in return and agreed.

Then, the question/answer session began.

The first question asked was a reference to Rushdie’s cameo in Bridget Jones’ Diary. When the laughs subsided, however, the second inquisitive mind decided to provoke a fun response; after all, what good is Rushdie without some controversial perspectives? He was asked of his opinion on the recent legislation in Quebec which has sought to ban the adornment of the niqab from public spaces.

My stomach turned, leading me to reach for the non-existent Pepto Bismol lying somewhere in my recently purchased H&M handbag. Why was this being brought up? What was the relevance of this to his lecture? Since when was Rushdie an authority on minority rights and issues relating to Quebec history and identity complexes?

It was Rushdie’s response, however, which would illicit a complete reddened response from my face.

Simply put, and general sexism aside, Rushdie said he ‘did not like his women behind a cloth.’ How he agreed with the legislation in essence, even though he had not read it, as he felt that was of dire importance that he be able to see the face of a woman who may be serving him in a government office. He didn’t need to see something in a ‘bag.’

I suppose bedding the likes of Padma Lakshmi makes one rather interested in the full exploration of the female body, regardless of her own choice. Again, overly-enthusiastic advocate of Roman Polanski’s drugged and one-way consensual adventures with a twelve-year-old. Makes sense.

He went onto claim that the women in his family were strong, independent and critical minded individuals who would be ‘very, very, very cross’ were anyone to suggest the veil – no longer just the niqab – to them. He said he felt, quite honestly, the veil was a form of oppression. That while many women here may have the choice to wear the veil, many women around the world did not and were forced to comply with the religious dress code.

As two of three veiled women in the audience – and at the very  front, ten feet from Rushdie with whom constant eye contact was made throughout the lecture – my friend and I immediately found ourselves quietened internally. We were shocked. We felt targeted and we felt isolated as we could almost feel 700 pairs of eyes slowly glance in our direction, wondering about the sort of facial reaction his response would force.

I sat there, numbed. I was not just upset at the rather alienating and completely insulted comment made by Rushdie – implying women, such as myself, who veil aren’t the most critical of thinkers or intelligent enough to ‘resist’ such an oppression of the expression of our faith – but I was upset because I knew that very few in the audience would engage with that particular topic any further and even fewer in an at least enlightened or tolerant manner. A crowd, from which questions to this distinguished author consisted of asking his opinion on Twenty/Twenty Cricket World Cup, bloggers as credible experts (about which he knew very little but continued to dispense his opinion to the mases), Slumdog Millionaire’s success, and general advice to aspiring writers, was not one from which I would expect a great deal of ‘critical thinking’ itself. Pretentious perhaps on my part, yes, but I’m the one creating this narrative aren’t I?

What upset me the most, however, was how completely useless Rushdie’s words became once he made that comment. He immediately had forgotten the importance of ‘tolerance’ and finding ‘common-ground.’ Rather than perhaps looking at different ways to live The Narrative shared across borders by all of us (amongst our own national, regional, individual narratives) he chose to make it abundantly clear that it was ultimately only his own narrative that mattered. That he was unwilling to listen to or acknowledge the narrative of others, because ‘bags’ just aren’t his thing. Mr. Rushdie spoke of how in an open society, the narratie must be constantly challenged and reworked – the (small) presence of the niqab and the (large) presence of the hijab in Quebec, in particular, are doing precisely that, sir (in the least royal sense of that word). So, what of that?

I attended the lecture with a made-up mind about Salman Rushdie, hoping that he’d be able to somehow prove me wrong despite all that I had read about and by him. That by becoming humanized – the most important thing, he mentioned – my dislike for him would weaken and he would merely become another writer whose work I could respect even with reservations in regards to his beliefs and actions. And during the lecture itself, he grew on me. He was quick, charming and eloquent – it is hard to hate someone who possesses such qualities. Even an overgeneralizing drunkard like Hitchens.

But I left feeling completely to the contrary. The way I was made to feel – alienated – and the way he completely deviated from an hour and a half of his own words, especially, left me completely disappointed with Salman Rushdie. Not as a writer, but as a person. Believe, internalize and exhibit what you say and promote, sir (again, in the least royal sense of that word).

Then again, whatever. Muslims don’t care about Rushdie anymore.

It’s all about Ayaan Hirsi Ali now.

31 thoughts on “My First Time with Salman Rushdie

  1. It seems to me that you’re doing exactly what Mr. Rusdie was arguing against.
    Despite the fact that you agreed with him on many of the points made in his speech, you’re choosing to define yourself through anger stemming from your disapproval of his narrative.

    In any case, despite the fact that he admitted he didn’t particularly like the idea of women wearing the niqab, he only condemned it in cases where women aren’t given a choice. He was simply espousing his own narrative based on his own world view, and wasn’t trying to force it on anyone else. You can’t blame a guy for stating his opinion when he’s asked to do so.

    I would like to add that this is an incredibly well written piece, and I definitely plan on reading more of your work.

  2. Hello McGill!
    I’m not angry nor defining myself on how angry I am. My Islamic identity, for instance, is not based at all on my negative disposition towards Mr. Rushdie. If it were, then I’d sincerely rethink my understanding of faith and spirituality.

    I am not angry, but upset. Disappointed. I went in hoping to have my mind changed from a long-held perspective which had roots in identity politics more so than anything else. And that perspective did briefly shift. As I said, he became humanized as he spoke and I, as a writer, grew to respect him greatly in that period. But when he spoke during the Q&A he completely lost me. He did not have to, for instance, respond to the question of the niqab ban when he had absolutely no idea of the history and issues behind it. He saw two veiled women sitting right in front, a mere 10 feet from him and yet decided to make a comment such as the hijab being oppressive. He’s more than welcome to have that opinion, and I don’t mind that he does – I wish, however, he had been less arrogant and more mindful of his audience.

    The entire audience.

    He did not condemn it in only instances of a lack of choice – when you say the ‘veil’ (which is not just the niqab) is oppressive you’re going beyond the issue of choice.

    As my friend pointed out, had a writer such as Arundhati Roy been there and had been asked such as a question, she would have been mindful of her entire audience and she probably wouldn’t have commented on an issue she (presumably) knew nothing about. The sort of arrogance and lack of mindfulness he portrayed disappointed me and completely contradicted what he had said.

    Woh wohhhh.

    Thanks for props : D

  3. Salaams,

    I read and thoroughly enjoyed your article. I can relate to what you said about growing up hearing about Rushdie. The other day, while I was shelving books at the library, The Satanic Verses came up in my hands and, I am somewhat ashamed to say, a shiver of hatred ran through me.

    So when I read your article, I could see what was happening as if I were there. I admire your courage in going to his lecture; I would never have been able to go. I’m sorry for what he put you and your friend through, and utterly disgusted by the way he grouped all kinds of veil together. I wish you the best of luck as you navigate your way through what seems to be an increasing intolerant world.

    Khalid

  4. Have you actually read The Satanic Verses? It’s about the immigrant experience from India to the UK, from the perspectives of different Indians from different faiths forced into one diaspora “community” that had little in common back home. It has almost nothing to do with Islam.

  5. Bassel – I skimmed through it, as I mentioned, and I do not hide from the source of ignorance from which my dislike of his initially sprouted. Also, it doesn’t have to do with Islam however he makes parallels and takes from stories from early Islamic history relating to the Prophet and others. The Wikipedia article does a good job in summarizing what I’m too tired to do right now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Satanic_Verses

  6. Rushdie’s flippant response to the niqab question is irrelevant. Saeed completely ignores the more important issue: Will she bother to read the Satanic Verses? After judging him all her life based of heresy from friends and family, will Sana bother to break loose and judge the work herself? Does she understand his right to create that narrative? Will she be able to lift the veil (sic) of indoctrination and see the beauty of his creation? Or is she going to keep to her prescribed role and just criticize Ayaan Hirsi Ali from now on?

    She writes well but it seems the hijab on her head keeps her mind closed. What a waste of what is obviously is a pretty good brain.

  7. Ad hominem attacks do not necessitate an appropriate response, I’m afraid. But good job on actually reading and trying to understand what I wrote. I don’t care for Satanic Verses, for the record. There have been far worse things written out there on Islam et al – with better writing. There’s more to him and his ideas than SV which I find more so contentious and deeply problematic.

    And I don’t reserve my dislike only for him. I mean, don’t get me started on Dr. Suess.

  8. A very well written article Sana. I was at the lecture by Mr. Rushdie and I completely agree with your analyses.

    @Anusar – I wonder why when someone like Sana likes to express their opinion on something, it becomes all about close-mindedness, but when ‘Sir’ Salman Rushdie does it, its the light of enlightenment and freedom in a dark world of oppression… Your whole premise is self contradictory….

  9. @E@McGill actually I disagree with Rushdie on a whole host of things. Perhaps the most important of which was related to his observation about Jane Austen ignoring the war on the continent and American writers ignoring the projection of US power abroad. I think this is an outcome of the political economy of literary writing and awards etc. Its much easier to win awards and accolades if one is writing about dogs barking than if one is criticizing state policy. If Sana dusts off ‘Manufacturing Consent’ by Chomsky from her shelf she would see the model applies as well to the publishing industry as it does to Mass Media. Rushdie completely ignores that and comes off as a little bit illiterate.

    @Sana, so I just looked up ‘ad hominem’ :) Think you missed the thrust of my question. The first half of your piece is beautiful. When you talk about growing up hearing about the writer you create a tension in the article about your own intellectual development. The reader gets excited about the climax where she hopes to find resolution of this tension. Will Sana decide to read his work and judge it on its own merit? Will she make peace with the writer and grow as an intellectual.

    You destroyed that dynamic by trivializing it. Its almost unforgivable. Bonito?

  10. For the record: I don’t think the state has the right to tell women what to wear. If women want to wear the niqab or the hijab its their inalienable right. Of course, he didn’t answer the question but thats probably cause he didn’t really get what was being asked.

    The Satanic Verses is my favourite novel of all time. Its absolutely brilliant. It constructs parallel universes of unimaginable proportions. Yes, it is most directly about Islam. And it actually glorifies and humanizes the Prophet. Only someone who hasn’t read it can miss the portrait of Mohammed as the kind of hero who falters and through sheer strength of character overcomes his own weakness and fear. Don’t know what the big fuss was about. Perhaps if I ever met someone who read the book and still found it offensive I might find out.

  11. I don’t get it – I don’t care about Satanic Verses. There’s more to him than that book. His stance on Polanski, for instance, also deeply troubles me. And I think you missed the point of what I was trying to say, Anusar. I was talking about having the opportunity to see someone in person, who had been so demonized. I have read through, albeit quickly, Satanic Verses and Midnight’s children. I’m more Rohinton Mistry than Rushdie, personally. The point of my piece was ..I went to see him so he could become human in my eyes. His lecture was amazing. The words were so powerful and I completely agreed with him. But when he showed himself simply to be a wordsmith, not really believing in what he was saying I lost any recently obtained respect for him – not as a writer, as I mention, but as a person.

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  13. Oh I see. I am coming from a completely different perspective. I have almost no interest in the person, I only care about his work and his opinion as a public intellectual. And I mostly disagreed with him. If you think he is a bad guy, sure, whatever you say. As an intellectual he is mediocre but as a writer he is brilliant. Anyway, why do u care about his person so much?? How is that relevant? In particular, why would you prefer him to defer to your presence and hold his tongue? (As a side note: I know Arundhati would never not speak her mind in anyone’s presence)

  14. Thanks for this excellent post, Sana. I felt like it would be pointless to be at the lecture, as any experience I have of Rushdie is through hearsay and I’d only have gone as a gawker. Your account of that particular response makes me sure I made the right choice. What a senseless damn undercutting of his entire lecture! Rushdie doesn’t like “his” women in “bags”? Congrats, Mr. Rushdie, you’ve just won the medal for Patronizing, Anti-Feminist Bigot of the Week.

  15. White-man’s burden mindset disguised in a poor facade of moral relativism?

    Hipsters bother me as much as the next guy, but I hardly think that merits an equation to turn-of-the-century British imperial racism à la Kipling.

  16. As an aspiring writer, I throughly enjoyed the article. It was really well written and the way it was concluded, took me rather by surprise. Well done!

  17. Well-written article. It’s still sad to see how so many Muslims feel so much hatred over a book that admittedly none of you have even read. Regardless what you may think of Rushdie’s work, which is phenomenal, this man was the target of a bounty put on his head by fundamentalist clerics that had not even, like yourselves, opened the pages of the book that had so allegedly upset him.

    So goes the strange binding of moral relativism and fundamentalism that is becoming more and more a hallmark of Islam in the West.

  18. Where do I cite SV as a source of my dislike for Rushdie, at the end? Honestly. I just disliked the guy’s hypocrisy. I mention this throughout my conclusion. I’m not concerned with his work but his arrogance. Forgive me for disliking someone based on their character.

    But I guess that makes me a fundamentalist in your books, Peter.

  19. Your casual ignorance about Rushdie’s work is disturbing (What does is mean to “skim through” a novel?) and your uncritical, inherited, dislike is tantamount to endorsing the fatwā.

  20. Assalamu Alaikum, I really enjoyed reading this dear Sana. Thank you for sharing it with us. Here is my comment about Rushdi’s Writings:
    It is not enough to be merely intelligent; one needs true guidance as well. In spite of his obvious cleverness, how does he remain ignorant of the truth–the truth that reality transcends imagination, that everlastingness is greater than his transient life, and that divine principles are more important and higher than human ones? “Is then He, Who gives finds not guidance [himself] unless he is guided?”(Quraan10:35) After reading about his biography, I grasped an important principle: One cannot succeed by making others happy at the expense of one’s own happiness. It cannot be considered correct, never mind sane, to make others pleased with you whilst you yourself are sad and miserable. Some writers have praised men of genius, not because they realized happiness and peace, but because they allowed themselves to burn on the inside in order to bring illumination to others. The true genius, however, is illuminated on the inside first, and then he shows others the way. He will build foundation of guidance and goodness first of all for himself, and then for others.
    The Hereafter and the world of the unseen–you will not find these themes in Mr. Rushdi’s writings. What you will find, though, is a world of imagination, dreams, and emotion; his works are alluring and so they became popular and successful. But where are the higher aims and noble messages one finds in great works? Truth be told, you will not find these themes discussed in his books. “To each-these as well as those–We bestow from the Bounties of your Lord. And the Bounties of your Lord can never be forbidden.” (Quraan 17:20)
    I conceded that Mr. Rushdi realizes what he had set out to do, but it is not enough for one to realize what one always wanted; what is required is that one fulfils what God wants. “Allah wishes to make clear [what is lawful and what is unlawful] to you, and to show you the ways of those before you, and accept your repentance and Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise. Allah wishes to accept your repentance, but those who follow their lusts, wish that you [believers] should deviate tremendously away from the Right Path”(Quraan 4:26-27) I cannot say for certain who will enter Paradise and who will enter the Fire, except a person who has been identified through revelation as heading towards one or the other. That being the case, I can only judge people by their sayings and deeds. “But surely, you will know them by the tone of their speech”(Quraan 47:30)

    As an afterthought on the subject, what will one benefit if one becomes a king while his heart is pervese and full of falsehood? If talent and success do not lead one to salvation, what then are they good for?

  21. Very nice piece, Sana- I was very excited to read it. I could go on and on but to sum it up: I have no problem with your disappointment regarding Rushdie’s answer. Everyone comes with a certain background, values, judgments, etc and obviously no one will dictate how you should feel about issues. Yet what I have a problem with is your claim that he shouldn’t have answered the question, or even answered the question in that way. Whether or not he’s right- he just gave his opinion. It might be “despicable” but he’s allowed to express it. He might be factually wrong, perhaps border-line insensitive, but if he thinks the veil is a sign of oppression then let him think that nonsense. He can offer judgment on someone’s personal choices. This is where there is a key difference between individuals like Rushdie saying whatever they want (I find legitimate) and the state imposing certain ways of life. To be anti-clerical is anyone’s prerogative and they should be able to exercise it- regardless if it offends anyone in the audience. I’m sure many things are said that marginalize certain students- but then if everyone takes offense with certain things that are expressed then our discourse becomes highly monitored and how do you draw the line between offensive, upsetting, factually erroneous, etc? Salman Rushdie might sprout nonsense but the fact that there were veiled women in the audience should not necessitate him to exercise any form of self-censorship (unless it is outright racist- but that isn’t because not all Muslim women wear the veil; it is definitely a debatable subject).

  22. So in essence, you cannot respect Rushdie’s work as a writer – with reservations in regards to his beliefs and actions – and you can no longer agree with what you originally found you agreed with in his speech…. all because you disagree with him on one single issue in Quebec?

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  24. I’d like to say firstly that this is a masterfully written piece. I like what you have to say and how you have said it, but I have to disagree with some of your opinions.

    You spend the first 80% of your article telling us how you know your dislike or bias is based purely on gossip and ignorance, and then how your opinion of this man (and I assume at least the craftsmanship of his work, if not the content) changed as you actual saw him in person; ie. actually experienced some of his “work”. Then you complete dismiss his entire character because he responded to a request for his opinion…with his opinion?

    There are so many other objectionable things said, done or opined by so many more important or influential people, but it is only the one that clashes with you culturally (or offends on a personal (e.g. religious) level) that you feel inclined to dismiss this person, and write extensive articles in order to qualify your own bias or political incorrectness.

    It is a shame that many people these days cannot distinguish between intolerance to their own specific culture/idea/belief/religion, and criticism (or tolerance of criticism) of theirs and any other culture/idea/belief/religion. No belief should ever be above criticism, not even your own.

    It is great that you are critically thinking about many of these things, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece, but when I got to the end and realised you still had not read any of his work, I have to come to the conclusion that you are still as yet unqualified to comment on Rushdie’s writing or his character. It is the ignorant who are often most eager to criticise.

  25. Darcy – I am not ignorant of Rushdie’s work. I’ve read some of his work. And I did not discard the merit of his work based on that particular experience. The point of the piece (written directly after I had seen him) was to show how even some of the most vehement critics of intolerance – and supporters of tolerance – have limits and some times can also be quite intolerant themselves. Tolerance is admired, but on their own terms and defined poorly. I certainly was not dismissing his work – as a writer I know one cannot do that. Heck, I can’t stand Hitchens nor have any respect for him, BUT I deeply respect his wit and way with words. So, I keep those two things separate.

    thanks for the kind words!

  26. A very interesting post. Just reading your post quickened my pulse. As if i was there myself. I am saddened to see how SR lived up to his reputation. I applaud you for having the courage and strength to listen him and his insulting and sneering comments.
    This is what character is about. He said what suited his character. You did and acted as it suited your character. Bravo girl. You rock.

    He is an old opinionated bigot who happens to talk smart and get away with stuff that hurts people deeply, and calls it “literature”. A lost sheep who really has no idea what tolerance is all about. An intellectual corruptor for the younger generation of the West is what he is. Forget him. He doesn’t matter to no one.

  27. Reblogged this on Muslim604's Blog and commented:
    This is an old but good post (from April 2010) by Sana Saeed. She describes what happened when she attended a lecture by Salman Rushdie at her university. I could definitely relate to her feelings about Rushdie before the lecture, and was pleasantly surprised at how the lecture unfolded. For some reason I wasn’t surprised at what he said in the Q&A though.

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