By Saif Khan:
While reading about the controversy which sprung up in the late 1980’s surrounding Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, I came across the fact that Radical Islamist Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who proclaimed the now infamous decree of death on Rushdie for insulting the Islamic Prophet, claimed that he based his judgement on a Quranic verse (9:61) which actually says, “Among them are those who vex the Prophet by saying, ‘He listens to everyone.’ Say, his listening to everyone is good for you; he believes in God and puts his trust in the faithful and is a mercy to those of you who believe. Those who annoy God’s messenger shall have a painful punishment.” Khomeini was very smart by emphasizing on the term ‘painful punishment’ but he actually took the verse out of context. The painful punishment over here is not to be given by humans and itÂ doesn’tÂ refer to blasphemy at all. It’s something which is entirely spiritual and is related to the concept of afterlife. The context of this ‘painful punishment’ lies in the 63rd Verse which states, “Do they not know that whoever opposes God and His Messenger shall abide forever in the fire of Hell. That is the Supreme Humiliation’.
The reality is that the punishment for blasphemy is not mentioned in the Quran at all. In fact, this punishment is actually a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition as it is clearly mentioned in the Book of Leviticus (24:16) of the Old Testament of the Bible. Some of the fundamentalist scholars like Zakir Naik cite another verse mentioned in the Quran (5:33) to suggest that the punishment for blasphemy is death but that is not what that verse talks about. That verse prescribed four types of punishments (Including death and banishment) for those who were waging war against God and his Messenger. Waging warÂ doesn’tÂ mean demeaning by means of words. The reference made over there was towards those people who were waging war against the Muslims and Prophet Muhammad while they were living peacefully in Medina. In the battles which followed, the Muslims defeated them and Muhammad forgave many of the enemies of the Muslims. The facts on the table clearly dismantle the clerical theory of ‘death for blasphemy’. Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa was in fact driven by political opportunism. Khomeini gave that fatwa on February 14th, 1989, approximately a year after the book was released and by that time no less than 5 nations had already banned the book. Khomeini’s fatwa wasÂ Islamic-allyÂ wrong as well as a desperate attempt of his to get into a conflict with the West. In the past also, he had done so by supporting the Iran Hostage Crisis which held captive 52 Americans and lasted for 444 days.
However, my denouncement of Khomeini’s fatwa does not mean that I support Rushdie’s book or the absolute right of freedom of speech. The Satanic Verses is full of dunk and contains such filthy language that I am sure Rushdie must have picked it up from the gutters of Bombay. This supposed masterpiece of English Literature uses over 100 Hindi slang words. Rushdie has used 16 Hindi words on the first page of the book itself. The word ‘fucking’ is mentioned 52 times in the book while the word ‘bastard’ is mentioned 29 times. This book has spared no one and is an insult to anyone and everyone. On the first page itself, Rushdie calls Londoner’s ‘bastards’. Margaret Thatcher is called a ‘fucking bitch’ on Page 269 of the book. He even writes of having sex with the Queen of England. On page 80 of the book, the Transgender community has been ridiculed. The expression which has been used for them is ‘hijras, chutias, shits’. This books smells of racism as on Page 461 it says, “Nigger [Black Man] eats white man’ shit.” Rushdie attacks and disgraces white women in his book by stating, “White women never mind fat, Jewish or non deferential, white women were for fucking and throwing over.” He has intentionally named the characters playing the role of prostitutes in his book after the wives of Prophet Muhammad. He has also disparaged Ram and Sita. On page 539 of his book, he has termed Ram as ‘drunk and lecherous’ ie a drunk man with a big sexual appetite and Sita as ‘flighty’. Rushdie did not even spare those who stood by him during his tough times. On page 392 he wrote, “There is no difference between writers and whores”. He labeled the British as ‘sister fucking’ and Americans as ‘fucking’ and these were the very people who saved him. Ironical indeed!