Afterword: The Rushdie Affair's Legacy
Dr. Koenraad Elst
In the thirteen years since the
publication of The Rushdie Affair, Salman Rushdie's name has
become a byword for the persecution of free speech by the forces of
militant Islam. Ironically, although Rushdie himself is very much alive -
writing well-received books, popping up among the literary jet-set, and
even acquiring a new girlfriend - the same cannot be said of many other
critics of Islam, both Muslim and not.
In retrospect, the lasting importance of
the edict by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini sentencing Rushdie to death was
to open the door for Islamist terror against Muslim freethinkers and
non-Muslim critics of Islam - what Daniel Pipes has dubbed the "Rushdie
rules." Given how much the frequency of attacks has increased on them
since 1989, it seems fair to conclude that this edict served as a
catalyst. The assault on September 11, 2001, made this taboo on criticism
of Islam all the more apparent and public, even as it broke it down in
select ways. At the same time, there are some grounds for optimism that
the killings and persecution are growing less common.
The following essay updates The
Rushdie Affair; written by Koenraad Elst, it has benefited from input
and review by Daniel Pipes.
Tehran has steadily upheld the Islamic
correctness and permanent validity of Ayatollah Khomeini's edict, even as
it declared its lack of intention in sending out its own hit men to
prosecute the death sentence. Sayyed Husayn Musavian, an Iranian envoy who
downplayed the whole controversy in his talks with Western leaders in the
hopes of renormalizing Euro-Iranian relations, made this point explicitly:
"The fatwa was merely a statement of something that has been part of
Islamic law for 1,400 years." Though some
elements in the government profess no longer to back these efforts,
Ayatollah Hasan Sanei'i's Khordad Foundation still has a standing offer of
$2.8 million for anyone who slays Salman Rushdie and many mullahs have
pledged a month's salary as contribution to the award.
The Iranian regime gave added
credibility to its continued threat against Rushdie by executing
dissidents within the country and assassinating dozens of Iranians living
in exile, such as the musician Fereydun Farokhzad in Bonn and the
columnist Mustafa Jehan in the Christian sector of Beirut. One count,
by the exiled former prime minister Abol Hassan Bani Sadr, has the regime
killing thirty-three exiled opponents between 1980 and 1996.
Violence most directly related to
Rushdie several attacks on his translators. Two of them, the Italian
Ettore Capriolo and the Norwegian William Nygaard, were seriously wounded
in knife assaults. (In defiance, Nygaard declared at the 1994 Book Fair in
Frankfurt that the only correct reply to the terrorists was to stand firm
for freedom, and that his way to do this was to translate and publish yet
another blasphemer's book, Taslima Nasrin's Shame.) More
alarming yet was the lethal attack on Hitoshi Igarashi, a Japanese
professor of literature and translator of The Satanic Verses, right
on the campus of Tsukuba University in 1991. To the indignation of the
Japanese public, Japanese Muslims applauded this killing and declared that
"even if the murder was not committed by a Muslim, God made sure that
Igarashi got what he deserved."
But the most murderous consequence by
far took place in July 1993 in the town of Sivas, Turkey, at a cultural
conference commemorating Pir Sultan Abdal (ca. 1480 - 1550
a poet sometimes called "Turkey's first socialist." Participants
included Aziz Nesin, the translator of The Satanic Verses into
Turkish and a Marxist author in his own right who had declared that "an
end should be put to the millennial tyranny of the Qur'an" and that
Muslims "should not be guided by such an antiquated book." Most
conference participants were Alevis, members of a Shi'i sect widely seen
by Sunni Muslims as beyond the pale of Islam. To protest the meeting, a
mob destroyed a statue of Abdal and demanded Nesin be handed over for
summary execution. Failing this, the crowd stormed the conference hotel,
set the building on fire, and prevented firefighters from extinguishing
the blaze. As a result, thirty-seven conference participants died.
Although Nesin himself escaped death, state attorney Nusrat Demiral
accused him of behaving "provocatively," and thereby being the prime
culprit for the deadly riots.
In 1996, a Pakistani Christian named
Ayub Masih was accused by his Muslim neighbor of encouraging him to read
The Satanic Verses. Under Pakistani law, the testimony of a single
Muslim suffices in blasphemy cases, and Masih was sentenced to death on
April 28, 1998. When the Court failed to order his immediate execution, he
was attacked in the courthouse itself but was saved. In a subsequent
Christian protest march, attacked with stones by Muslim bystanders, Bishop
John Joseph shot himself in a spectacular act of desperation (some
Christians allege he was murdered). In Masih's village, all the Christians
fled and their houses were occupied by Muslims.
One prominent Muslim who suffered for
The Satanic Verses, notably for protesting against the ban, was
Mushir-ul-Hasan, pro-vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, the Muslim
university of Delhi. He told an interviewer: "I think the ban should be
lifted. I think every person has a right to be heard and to be read."
In his view, the ban "qualifies as an indefensible move," though he took
care to deny any sympathy for the book's contents. Overnight, he became
the object of a vicious campaign by most students and some professors at
Jamia Millia. Though he buckled, apologizing and saying he never meant to
demand the lifting of the ban, he had to stay away from his own
university. The day he showed up again, he was severely beaten up and had
to be hospitalized.
The result of this terror is clear:
critics of Islam feel constrained to apply self-censorship or accept a
life of living in fear.
Rather than provide a survey of the
Rushdie rules being applied globally, here is a closer look at three
countries, Turkey, Egypt, and Algeria.
Islamist militants killed journalist Cetin Emec (1990), Turan Dursun
(1990), exiled Iranian dissident Ali Akbar Gorbani (alias Mansour Amini,
1992), and leading Leftist journalist Uğur Mumcu (1993). These murders
were probably committed by the Islamic Action Group, whose members were
arrested in 1993 and the murders stopped. Toktamış Ateş, a
left-secular columnist for the daily Cumhuriyet, escaped death when
the police discovered a time-bomb fixed underneath the table in an
Istanbul bookstore where he was to sign autographs. A Turkish
bartender, Oğuz Atak, had the name "Allah" tattooed on his shoulder; in
1997 he was shot dead for defiling God's name. On 21 October 1999,
prominent secularist academic Ahmet Taner Kislali died after picking up a
parcel left on the roof of his car in an Ankara street.
Turks responded robustly; for example, a
quarter million Turks marched against radical Islam ("Turkey will never be
Iran") in the mourning procession for Uğur Mumcu. Nonetheless, as
Islamist pressure rose, the government began banning books critical of
Islam, such as Ilhan Arsal's Stories about the Shari'a, a volume
that tells about the historical basis of Islamic law, questioning whether
modern behavior should be based on ancient and sometimes even comical
incidents. This was deemed insulting to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
Arsal replied that he had wanted Turks to know more about the Shari'a and
had simply brought authentic Islamic materials to public attention: "Most
quotations have been taken from publications by the Ministry for Religious
Affairs." Thus did Atatürk's successors prohibit a faithful rendering
of Islam's own traditions for the crime of insulting Islam.
has a history of Islamist violence that has affected even the country's
most renowned writer, Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz (b. 1911), who was
stabbed with a knife to his neck and seriously wounded in 1994. Farag Foda,
a Muslim liberal and long-standing critic of the fundamentalists, was
murdered in June 1992; his son and other bystanders were seriously
wounded. During the trial of several suspects in the Foda murder, expert
witnesses defended the execution of apostates and blasphemers. As a
newspaper report put it:
Those accused of killing Farag Foda were
defended in court by Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, one of Egypt's most
senior theologians. He is an official at Al-Azhar [University, a
theological academy] and thus a government employee. Mr. Ghazali testified
in court that Mr. Foda and 'secularists' like him are apostates who should
be put to death. He added that if the government failed to carry out that
'duty', individuals were free to do so.
As Ghazali's testimony suggests,
censorship has become a joint venture of the Egyptian state and the
guardians of orthodoxy. A fundamentalist member of parliament, Jalal
Gharib, demanded in 1994 and won an assurance from Culture Minister Faruq
Husni that a committee of Islamic scholars from Al-Azhar University would
henceforth screen (and possibly reject) ministry books scheduled for
publication. This agreement merely confirmed a privilege that Al-Azhar
had already exercised many times in the past, most notably, by banning
Nagib Mahfouz's 1959 novel, Children of Gabalawi, which it
claimed contained "insulting" references to God and the prophets.
Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid at-Tantawi, the
head of Al-Azhar, in 1996 called A Psychological Analysis of Prophets
by journalist 'Abdullah Kamal, a blasphemous book on the grounds that
"Islamic doctrine does not permit description of the divine messengers in
terms which erode their religious position. It is the task of Al-Azhar and
other religious institutes to correct such sinful thoughts." The
government dutifully imposed a ban on the book and confiscated all unsold
Egyptian courts have tried to steer a
middle course between purely Islamic verdicts (death sentence for
apostasy) and showing an amiable face to the outside world. For this
reason, 'Ala' Hamid, a civil servant and author of a Voltairian essay,
was not sentenced to death but to eight years' imprisonment for
blasphemy. His publisher, Muhammad Madbuli, a critic of Islam who has
dismissed religion as "a fabric of myths," got the same sentence, along
with the printer of Hamid's book. Hamid hadn't expected this much
trouble: "My only crime is that I allowed myself to think." Likewise,
Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, a reformist Muslim professor of literature, was not
sentenced to death for apostasy, but found his marriage dissolved on the
Shari'a grounds that a Muslim woman may not be married to a non-Muslim
man. Fortunately for the couple, the University of Leiden in Holland
invited both to teach, permitting them to escape Egypt.
Islamists have killed Western tourists
to Egypt in many incidents, most notoriously in an assault in Luxor in
late 1997. This campaign of violence not only reduces the Egyptian
government's vital tourist income but it punishes those who visit Egypt to
see the Pharaonic "idol temples." (Though less well known than the Taliban
destruction of the Buddha at Bamiyan, the famous Karnak temple was bombed
in 1992, giving teeth to Islamist calls for demolishing the Sphinx and
Even living in the West does not
guarantee safety for Egyptian dissidents, however. After the Mecca-based
Council of Religious Scholars declared Rashad Khalifa, an Egyptian
emigrant to the United States, to be an "infidel," he was killed in
Tucson, Arizona. Unknown assailants shot Makin Morcos in Australia after a
radio station broadcast his criticism of Islamists for harassing and
murdering Coptic Christians in Egypt.
freethinking journalists to women in Western dress, many alleged enemies
of Islam have lost their lives in Algeria, where the death toll from an
Islamist insurgency numbers over 100,000. The year 1993 alone counted such
victims as: Berber writer Tahar Djaout, shot dead as he walked out of the
Algiers office of the secularist weekly Rupture; political
scientist Mohammed Boukhobza, his throat cut; sociologist and poet Youssef
Sebti, his throat also cut; and political scientist Djillali Lyabès,
writer Hafidh Senhadri, and doctor and writer Laadi Flici. Newsreader
Tayeb Bouterfis was shot dead near his residence in Baraki outside Algiers
in October 1994. Playwright Abdelkader Alloula was shot in Oran.
Said Mekbel died on December 4, 1994 from his bullet wounds, the 24th
journalist killed by the Islamists since 1992; his final article was found
in his computer, describing some of the stratagems he used to deceive the
terrorists about his whereabouts. Film director Ali Tenki was among 65
civilians killed west and south of Algiers in a particularly bloody week
in August 1997. Terror by the mysterious Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA)
struck unveiled schoolgirls, working women, and entire villages, as well
as targets outside the country. The GIA continues its policy of carrying
out massacres in undefended villages to the present.
The Berber singer-songwriter Lounès
Matoub had described himself as an apostate ("ni Arabe ni musulman,"
"neither Arab nor Muslim"); in June 1998, he was murdered. Though some
insiders to the Berber autonomist movement sought to blame the Algerian
government, the GIA claimed responsibility, explaining that Matoub was
among the fiercest enemies of religion and of the Mujahidin, as did
another Islamist organization, the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et
le Combat. Consequently, the murder remains shrouded in mystery.
The Islamist terror campaign extends to
Westerners in Algeria, secular and religious. Notable among the latter: A
bomb killed Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran in 1996, along with his
chauffeur, making him the nineteenth Catholic priest killed since
1992. Other victims included Father Charles Deckers, a Belgian pioneer of
Muslim-Christian dialogue, one of a group of seven White Fathers murdered
in a single attack.
Miscellaneous and Unreported Cases
The Rushdie rules apply to fashion and
the arts as wells in other places. In several cases, utilizing the name
"Allah" (or any of its many derivatives in personal names, such as
'Abdallah) on clothing has lead to protests and apologies. The model
Claudia Schiffer wore a dress with Arabic letters in Paris but the
resulting protests led to the fashion house withdrawing the dress. Several
similar cases of protest occurred in Bangladesh and elsewhere because
manufacturers allegedly defiled the name "Allah" by imprinting it on
something as lowly as a shoe. More bizarre yet was a case in the United
States, where the sports-apparel firm Nike, threatened by a global Muslim
boycott, agreed not only to recall 38,000 pairs of shoes bearing a logo
that some Muslims claimed resembled the Arabic spelling of the word
"Allah," but also to apologize for the incident, provide "sensitivity
training" on Islam for all Nike employees, and donate $50,000 to an
Islamic school in the United States. By contrast, the Israeli Arab
fashion designer. Fida' Na'amna, though deemed a blasphemer and unbeliever
by some imams, refused even to apologize for using the calligraphy "Allah"
in one of her creations.
In instances like these, the offending
artists have a fairly good case in denying any commission of an act of
blasphemy. In this register of "blasphemy," people are making ritually
improper references to Allah or Mohammed but without any hostile or even
sceptical intent. Thus, in the 1999 case of Christian singer Marcel
Khalife in Lebanon, Judge 'Abd ar-Rahman Shihab demanded his imprisonment
for up to three years for insulting religious rituals by using a chapter
of the Qur'an in his song lyrics. But the trial got postponed and derailed
thanks to the singer's friends in high places. Druze leader Walid
Joumblatt and even Prime Minister Salim Hoss came out in his support.
Shi'i leader Mohammed Hasan al-Amin said that the use of Qur'anic
quotations is a common practice in Arabic poetry. Another Shi'i leader,
Muhammad Mahdi Shams ad-Din, considered the use of a Qur'anic text to be
blasphemous but rejected the idea of putting the singer on trial. This
ritual impropriety was enough to raise some frowns from clerics but not
sufficient to provoke the anger needed for a real persecution.
This list of victims of the Islamist
book-banners and blasphemy-avengers is, however, far from complete. In
many cases, lighter forms of suppression take place and do not attract
international attention. Bassam Tibi, a Syrian professor based in Germany,
has noted the many cases of "critical Muslims in Algeria, Egypt or Turkey
who are persecuted or even killed by fundamentalists and about whom world
opinion never gets informed. In a fundamentalist environment, being both
Muslim and intellectual is a risk, because the Shari'a's big stick
tolerates no freedom of opinion." Likewise, Rachid Boudjedra of
Algeria remarks that the international media reports only selected cases:
"When Farag Foda fell, they were briefly persuaded [to report] but even
before Foda many intellectuals in Cairo and Alexandria have been killed by
Some examples: In the United Arab
Emirates, eleven Indians were sentenced in May 1992 to six years'
imprisonment for staging a play, Shavamtîni Urumbukal (Malayalam:
"Ants feasting on a corpse"), which contained allegedly blasphemous
passages. This award-winning play, written in 1981-82 by Karthikeyan
Padiyath and frequently staged and applauded throughout Kerala, "is a
social comedy on the followers of Christ, Prophet Muhammad and Karl
Marx." In other cases, no judicial prosecution nor physical violence
occurs but people are threatened with financial or career consequences for
smaller "offences." For example, a Muslim school principal in India was
forced to resign because she had allowed pupils to stage a play depicting
scenes from the life of a Hindu family. In this case, the mere
expression of sympathetic interest in heathen neighbors amounts to a
deviation to be punished.
Even more serious cases go unreported.
Islamists shot and killed in October 1997the Pakistani High Court judge,
Arif Bhatti, who had acquitted two Christians on blasphemy charges. In
Saudi Arabia in 1992, young poet Sadiq 'Abd al-Karim Milalla was beheaded
for having declared that Islam is a false religion, the Prophet a
charlatan, and the Qur'an Muhammad's own creation. That same year, a
Christian preacher from the Philippines was sentenced to death in Saudi
Arabia for trying to convert Muslims. In 1997, two Christian Filipinos
from in Saudi Arabia were sentenced to death, ostensibly for common
crimes, but according to witnesses it was in fact because they had tried
to preach their religion as preferable to Islam. Media interest in all
these events was minimal.
Some Muslim intellectuals complain that
their culture has still not produced a Voltaire. But the truth seems
rather to be that there are quite a few Muslim Voltaires, only they are
working under more difficult circumstances than the French satirist: some
of them are in exile, many are being very cautious, and others have been
silenced for good.
The traditional Muslim countries may be
where the Rushdie rules are most often applied, but they also extend now
to the West as well. In March 1989, French singer Véronique Sanson
performed a song titled Allah in a show at the Paris Olympia Hall,
which begins with the story of a Lebanese female suicide-bomber, then
Allah, why the fire and thunder?
Why do you wage this war? . . .
It is you whom they are using.
It is in your name that they are fighting. . . .
If I were you, I wouldn't be proud.
Sanson received death threats after just
one performance of this song, so she immediately removed it from her
program. "I am not so much afraid for myself," she explained. "But I
cannot run the risk of endangering the lives of my musicians and of the
thousands of people in the audience."
Mostly, however, the main brake on
critical discussion of Islam in the West results not from physical threats
but from subtle and not-so-subtle forms of censorship. Westerners who have
critical things to say about Islam render themselves unemployable. The
French civil servant Jean-Claude Barreau, head of the administration for
the integration of immigrants, was sacked in 1991 for publishing a book in
which he questioned the "golden legend" of the "great Islamic
civilization" which is only believed because "man's capacity for
self-deception is enormous." He called the spread of Islam "one of the
great catastrophes in history," pointing out that agriculture collapsed
where peasants converted to Islam, a city-based religion: "The Muslims are
not the sons but the fathers of the desert." Strong language,
certainly, and critics discovered a number of errors of detail in the
book, but Barreau was right to point out that similar criticism of
Christianity would never have caused his dismissal. Barreau called himself
a victim of the taboo on critical discussion of Islam.
In France, the late bishop Marcel
Lefebvre, leader of the traditionalist Catholics, was sentenced to pay a
fine of 5,000 French francs (about $900) for his "racist" statement, to a
non-Muslim audience, that when the Muslims presence becomes even stronger,
"it is your wives, your daughters, your children who will be kidnapped and
dragged off to a certain kind of places as they exist in Casablanca
[Morocco]." That a prominent bishop can be brought before a court for
evoking the historical fact of European slavery at the hands of Muslim
slavers is a sign of a new power equation. (In contrast, British Muslim
leader Kalim Siddiqui was not prosecuted for blaming European civilization
for all the evils of the modern world, nor even for breaking the law by
publicly calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie.) And Lefebvre got off
lightly, the judge having ruled that he had not "actively incited to
discrimination," in which case he would have received a prison sentence
plus a fine of 300,000 francs. Fines of this magnitude have recently been
imposed twice on actress and animal-rights activist Brigitte Bardot for
comparing Muslim settlement in France to the Nazi occupation, and for
saying: "Tomorrow, the Muslims who cut the throats of innocent sheep to
celebrate Eid, may well cut the throat of human beings, as is already
being done in Algeria."
In 1994, the city government of Geneva
organized the performance of all of Voltaire's theatre plays to celebrate
the famous freethinker's 300th birthday. However, the Muslim community
(not Islamists, but state-subsidized cultural foundations) objected to the
staging by director Hugues Loichemol of Voltaire's play, first staged in
1742, Mahomet ou le fanatisme, an attack on religious intolerance
based on the Muslim biography of Muhammad in which he orders the murder of
his critics. The city government withdrew funding for the play and no
one dared come forward in response to Loichemol's plea for private
sponsorship, so the performance was cancelled.
Those in the West who speak out
critically in their own name sometimes must live underground. This is the
case for Steven Emerson, the American journalist researching Islamist
networks in the United States, and 'Abd al-Qadir Yasin, a Palestinian
writer and ex-assistant of Yasir Arafat, now living in Sweden. Yasin
Rushdie has written what we wanted to
say. He has told the world that we exist. He ended our isolation. But at
the same time he has isolated us again. He has freed us only to put us in
chains again. Now it has become entirely impossible to see anything in the
Qur'an except a sacred and unassailable book of God.
Yasin also testified from personal
experience how difficult and dangerous it is to speak one's doubts about
Islam even with friends, always knowing that "when we declare ourselves
separated from the faith, it is the duty of the faithful to put us to
A number of books on Islam, even serious
and important works, are now published under pseudonym. Thus, the apostate
Muslim author Why I Am Not a Muslim, a well-argued secular-humanist
critique of Islam, felt compelled to hide his identity behind a false
name. So did the nationalist French author of Islamism and the
United States: An Alliance against Europe, which sees a conspiracy in
America's pressure on the European Union to admit Turkey and its all-out
American support for the Bosnian Muslims. Then there is the case of
the book published in 1990 by a Muslim who called himself "Mohamed Rasoel,"
The Impending Ruin of the Netherlands, Country of Gullible Fools,
which deserves special attention.
Warning that the Dutch are mistaken to
tolerate the establishment of Islamic institutions and the mushrooming
growth of their Muslim population, The Impending Ruin of the
Netherlands predicted this would lead to a civil war and the country's
partition. Significantly, the author's first warning to this effect was an
unsolicited guest column in a Rotterdam daily during the heat of the
Rushdie controversy. Many progressive intellectuals reacted to the
book in a vicious way. For example, the Hindu-born secularist Anil Ramdas
equated its author with Khomeini, saying that he was "revealing himself as
an intentional murderer." A number of bookstores refused to sell the
Unwilling to reveal his whereabouts, the
author did grant media interviews, prompting the Dutch press frantically
to try to uncover his real identity. A television talk show host tried to
grab his passport and pull off the shawl with which he covered his face; a
Muslim politician was ostensibly willing to talk to him, only to pass his
teacup onto the police for the fingerprints. After a few months of
cat-and-mouse, this effort finally succeeded; the author turned out to be
a Pakistani cabaret artist living in Edam who was known to the public only
as "Zoka F."
Rendering his last name with only the
initial reflected the fact that by the time he became known, the author
had become a suspect in a court case; the Anne Frank Foundation, of all
things, then controlled by the far Left, had brought charges of racism
against Rasoel. During the course of the trial in 1992, the Dutch public
beheld the remarkable spectacle of a dark-skinned immigrant shouted down
by the press and sentenced to a heavy fine by white judges, while his
white collaborators - the publisher and translator (from broken English to
Dutch) of his book - were acquitted. The judge decided that Rasoel had
made "unjustified generalizations" by contrasting "soft Dutchmen" with
"crude, cruel, corrupt and bloodthirsty Muslims." Although the verdict
left Rasoel with a large debt, he felt vindicated by it:
It proves that the general thrust of my
book is correct, that Dutch society is changing and becoming less
tolerant. Freedom of opinion is already being sacrificed. I don't blame
this state attorney, he is a nice man but rather dumb and naïve like most
Dutchmen. . . . Muslims are allowed to shout: kill Rushdie. . . . When
Muslims say on TV that all Dutch women are whores, it is allowed. . . . It
is ridiculous and scandalous that I have to justify myself in court for
discrimination of Muslims.
Rasoel's case points to the fact that
the proliferation of anti-racist legislation offers a mechanism to punish
critics of Islam; in addition to the Netherlands, it has already been used
to this effect in France and Belgium. This is doubly ironic: For one,
there are plenty of critics of Islam by not-so-white people, especially
former Muslims. For another, real racism, i.e. belief in the
inequality of races, is now definitely at its lowest ebb in centuries.
Still, the highly charged accusation of racism is now used for an
ever-widening spectrum of non-racist opinions, from xenophobia (which is
indeed on the rise) to legitimate criticism of cultural expressions
associated with immigrant groups. The anti-racism laws also include the
creation of a legal category of "opinion crimes" that can be used to
suppress opinions having nothing to do with racism.
Who Are the Censors?
It need not be Muslims who put pressure to prevent criticism of Islam or
punish its authors; in a number of instances, Western governments have
attempted to thwart, or at least refused to support, criticism of Islam.
The British government banned a demonstration in support of Salman Rushdie
on the thousandth day of his underground life, fearing that this would
endanger the negotiations to release Terry Waite, a British hostage in
Lebanon. Lufthansa, the German airline, refused to let Rushdie on to
one of its flights; as recently as March 2002, Air Canada banned Rushdie
from its flights for six months. A public reading from The Satanic
Verses in a Muslim-dominated suburb of Brussels was prohibited; when
questioned, the City Council and the Home Ministry held one another
responsible for issuing the ban. When the European Parliament invited
Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin to come and receive the Sakharov Prize
in Strasbourg, the French government initially wanted to grant her a visa
for a single day, pleading an inability to guarantee her safety for any
longer period than this utmost minimum.
Despite the American tradition of
tolerating even the most repugnant speech, the State Department in
mid-1997 publicly demanded the punishment of an Israeli woman who had
distributed a poster depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a pig. And an
Israeli judge did its bidding, sentencing her to two years' imprisonment.
On several occasions, university authorities in Belgium have cancelled
permission for lectures and debates expected to be critical of Islam. A
Brussels weekly published a cover story titled "Will the Belgium of Our
Children Be Islamic?" that was filled with sober references to human
rights violations against Christians in Turkey and Egypt, plus an excerpt
from a speech by a Belgium-based imam: "Soon we will take power in this
country. Those who criticize us now, will regret it. They will have to
serve us. Prepare, for the hour is near." In response, the Belgian
Human Rights League filed a suit on the basis of the anti-racism law—and
not against the imam but against the journalist. The palace contacted the
editor to protest the issue's cover, which showed King Albert II wearing
an Arab head dress. The editor had advertisements of the issue removed;
soon after, he himself was sacked.
Pressure is sometimes applied in
private. A well-known Belgian psychologist, Herman Somers, published a
book, A Different Muhammad, that contains a detailed analysis of
the words and acts of the prophet and concludes that his prophethood is a
typical case of paranoid delusion nourished with sensorial
hallucinations. The psychiatrists and specialists on Islam who helped
Somers do his research, it bears noting, did so only on condition of
strict anonymity. Somers also wrote best-selling studies of Jesus,
Biblical prophets, the Jesuit order, and Jehovah's Witnesses, all of which
were widely discussed in the media. This time, however, his book met with
a deafening silence. Reviewers looked the other way, scholars of religion
strictly avoided mention of the book, and even the publisher failed to
publicize the book. It sold poorly and quickly became unavailable. Without
any law being violated or any ban issued, Somers' thesis was effectively
prevented from entering the public discourse. These cases contain not a
hint of Islamist threat nor government pressure.
In some cases, Western intellectuals who
wish to stand by Muslim-born critics of Islam simply can't get a grip on
the problem. In November 2000, a theater in Rotterdam was forced to
withdraw from its program a play called Aisha, written by Dutch
playwright Gerrit Timmers but manned entirely by Moroccan-born actors.
After persuasive interventions by some imams, the actors pleaded that they
couldn't be a party to an enactment of scenes from the life of the Prophet
and of his favourite young wife 'A'isha. There was some commotion
about the matter (even in the Dutch parliament), with the general
conclusion being that non-Muslims just have no clue to Islam and the
Muslim community, and that freethinking Muslims would just have to sort
matters out for themselves.
Political authorities at least have the
excuse that they have other concerns (financial, diplomatic, security)
beside the cause of intellectual freedom. Intellectuals, however, have no
such excuses. Nor can they point to personal danger; there have been
practically no attempts on the lives of Western critics of Islam, the most
conspicuous exception so far being Steven Emerson, who has indeed been
threatened. Muslims dislike it when a non-Muslim articulates his
non-acceptance of Islamic doctrine, but they find this much less shocking
than when a born-Muslim does the same thing. After all, a non-Muslim by
definition does not believe in Muhammad as God's messenger, so theories
about Muhammad being a fraud and the like merely make explicit the
skepticism common to nearly all non-Muslims. So, fear of physical violence
probably does not account for the silence of Western intellectuals.
Rather, it is a matter of careerist calculations. Criticism of Islam is
easily associated with a retrograde Christian fanaticism or anti-immigrant
xenophobia—and being tagged with such labels is disastrous publicity,
whether or not they accurately apply.
Now that Islamist organizations have taken root and are prospering in the
West, they have shown skill at turning the laws of their host societies
against its supposed high valuation of freedom of expression. Islamist
groups had an important role in the case of the Voltaire play (above) and
Michel Houellebecq (below).
Some Muslim organizations, all while
treading the legal path themselves, obliquely support or applaud the
actions of their more militant brethren, at times even openly. This
happened in two cases concerning Muslims who critique their coreligionists
who gave Islam a bad name by their intolerance and violence. The
Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization
with an entrée to the White House, brought about an edict against Khalid
Durán by for his allegedly misrepresenting Islam in his book on Islam;
then CAIR pretended that the edict had not taken place but was made up by
the publisher in an effort to stimulate sales. In July 1998, Prof.
Ebrahim Moosa and his family narrowly survived when a bomb blew up their
house in Cape Town, South Africa; to this, the Islamic Unity Convention
The Impact of September 11
The events of September 11, 2001,
slightly shifted but did not fundamentally change publicly stated Western
opinion landscape regarding Islam. Debate about the need to limit
immigration or to pursue energetic policies of assimilation rather than
pampering isolationist structures in the immigrant Muslim communities
could finally break through the limits imposed by political correctness.
It suddenly became acceptable to mention and discuss the higher crime rate
among Muslims, as in the epidemic of gang-rapes from Sydney to Paris and
Copenhagen. Even so, it remains risky to take liberties with the Islamic
religion. People have felt emboldened to express their misgivings about
the increasing Islamic assertiveness, but the (generally well-meaning)
enforcers of the taboo on criticizing Islam have not disarmed.
The Netherlands was typical of many
Western countries. There, the freedom to discuss Islam increased after
September 11 - up to a point. The flamboyant homosexual sociology
professor Pim Fortuyn drew the logical anti-Islamic conclusions from his
ultraliberal views. Single-handedly, he broke the taboo on non-deferential
discussion of Islam, which he saw as "backward" and threatening to modern
values. Out of the blue, the party he founded cornered 26 of the 150 seats
in parliament in the elections of May 2002, but he himself was murdered a
week earlier by a Green-Left activist. All the same, his party joined the
new Centre-Right government, which immediately broke with the earlier
routine of pampering the mushrooming Islamic establishment, at least at
the verbal level. Fortuyn was against demands of sending immigrants back
to where they came from (and his party in government shows no signs of
promoting such a policy), but he insisted on their gradual assimilation on
the pattern of earlier waves of immigrants. Even this was enough to earn
him al kinds of hate labels ("Mussolini," "Milosevic,," etc.) but
after September 11, the tide of public opinion had clearly turned in his
After September 11, it became much
easier openly to question the virulent sermons given by Imams in some
Dutch mosques, without incurring the "racism" indictment that had struck
Mohamed Rasoel a decade earlier; but the taboo on criticism of Islam did
not disappear. It had merely receded to protect Muslims as a whole, if no
longer their more embarrassing extremist spokesmen. Muslim-born critics of
Islam still run a more serious risk than the non-Muslims, who can get away
with a mere verbal reprimand from the multiculturalist opinion hegemons.
"For me as a non-Muslim it is easier to criticize Islam than for Muslims,"
noted the Arabic scholar Maurice Blessing.
In the course of 2002, writer Hafid
Bouazza and jurist Afshin Ellian, a refugee from Iran, received death
threats after criticizing Islam. In September 2002, Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali,
32, Somali-born political scientist working for the Dutch Labour Party,
was threatened from several quarters after uttering criticism of Islam on
television. Inside the party, she had launched the debate on the
emancipation of Muslim women, a debate which the Dutch socialists had been
avoiding for too long. In a talk show, she had conceded that, "measured by
certain criteria," Islam is indeed a "backward" religion.
Muslim author and prison chaplain Ali
Eddaoudi, who had angrily walked out of the television debate with her,
explained afterwards that Muslims are enraged with her "dilly-dallying
with the Dutch" who embrace her as their "model immigrant." Imam
Abdullah Haselhoef, who had emerged after September 11 as the government's
favourite liberal Muslim, lambasted her as a "coconut": brown on the
outside, white within. Ali went underground for a while and cancelled
her lectures and publications, for the police took the threats (which came
from different countries and also targeted her father in London) very
seriously. Muslim members of the Labour Party protested, e.g.: "I am a
liberal Muslim and I am boiling with rage, so you can imagine how
conservative Muslims feel about this and what they may do."
These incidents spelled out the ultimate
Islamic principle that underlie the controversies over freedom of
expression; the prohibition on apostasy from Islam. "Apostasy is the
biggest taboo in Islam," noted Maurice Blessing: "It is a frontier you
cannot cross." Blessing got worried when he saw the reactions of Muslim
panel members in the television debate with Hirsi Ali: "Accusing someone
on TV of apostasy, as Muslims did to her in this TV programme, is nasty.
If you do that as a Muslim, you know how serious the allegation is and
what the consequences can be." Arabic scholar Fred Leemhuis explained:
Every Muslim who executes the death
sentence on an apostate, does work pleasing to God. So this is freedom of
religion. This is Islam. In Egypt the highly authoritative imam Muhammad
al-Ghazali confirmed before a court of justice that apostasy is punished
with the death penalty. If the state doesn't implement it, doing so
himself would be the duty of every Muslim. Those are statements which can
inspire people. And fundamentalists don't feel restrained by national
borders or legislation.
One limitation does exist, however: "It
must really be established with certainty that the accused is an
apostate," according to Leemhuis, and this can be deduced from his or her
words and actions.
Cases of quiet apostasy are relatively
common, typically during the student years under the influence of
secularized or (more rarely) firmly Christian natives. But going public
with apostasy, even if only implicitly through criticism of Islam, is not
tolerated and requires great courage. That is why columnist Sylvain
Ephimenco congratulates Hirsi Ali: "Your participation in this type of
debate in the last few weeks has meant more for the emancipation of Muslim
women in this country than a whole decade of deafening silence from the
It was striking how seemingly the entire
political and intellectual class hurried to assure the Muslim community
that it would not be targeted with suspicions of collective guilt. This
cuddly goodwill offensive included a visit by Prime Minister Wim Kok to a
mosque. While this was not bad in itself, and may even have saved a few
Muslim lives by nipping a possible wave of anti-Muslim anger in the bud,
it remains hard to imagine such an attitude in case of violence by other
groups, such as autochthonous nationalists. In such a case, there would be
an outcry about how "this event shows the ugly true face of nationalism,"
and there would be no goodwill missions of politicians to the beer halls
of the nationalists.
But claims that Osama bin Laden
incarnated "the true face of Islam," or even "a legitimate part of
Islam," remained confined to an extremist fringe in Holland, while
everyone of some standing came out to affirm the opposite. For example, in
a collection of articles on 9/11 published in the high-brow daily Trouw,
not a single author links these acts of terrorism to any Islamic doctrine.
One contributor says the events were proof of "nihilism," another puts
them down to "Third-World frustration," the next one accuses "economic
inequality," but all are in effective agreement to deny and smother the
Islamic motive explicitly invoked by the suicide terrorists
Looking quickly at other countries: In
November 2001, the Danish people elected a government promising to curb
the perceived advances and increasing arrogance of the growing Islamic
establishment. The new government's policies regarding the integration or
assimilation of Muslim immigrants and the creation of hurdles in the way
of mass immigration were widely criticized as being too "xenophobic" by
some - but as too tentative and timid by others. This aptly sums up the
power equation after September 11: an acknowledged desire to "take no more
nonsense," but also a sense of restraint so as not to veer from one
extreme (starry-eyed multiculturalism) to the other, combined with a fear
of criticism from the Left.
In Italy, the contradictory reactions
can be seen in two prominent cases. In autumn 2001, the media's cries of
"racism!" forced Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to retract his
description of Islam as "backward" and "inferior to European
civilization." But other voices critical of Islam became bolder, and
especially the shrill critique of Islam by the veteran leftist journalist,
Oriana Fallaci, in her La Rabbia e l'Orgoglio (Anger and Pride).
Not surprisingly, Fallaci herself received lambasting reviews of
extraordinary ferocity. In France, a petition seeking to ban Fallaci's
book for alleged racism narrowly failed; but more important was the late
2002 trial of postmodern novelist Michel Houellebecq, 45, for anti-Islamic
utterances in his novel Plateforme, published in August 2001, and
in subsequent interviews. (In the book, after the protagonist's
beloved is killed by a Muslim in a bombing, he applauds the killing of a
Palestinian militant.) Professionals of the French race relations industry
joined hands with Islamic organizations (the mosque foundations of Paris
and Lyons, the Saudi-based World Islamic Council) to file a court case
against Houellebecq for "incitement to racial hatred."
The trial became an arena where the core
questions of the whole debate on the Rushdie rules found expression. Dalil
Boubakeur, rector of the Paris mosque, made the basic case: "Freedom of
expression ends where it can hurt .... I think that my community has been
humiliated, my religion insulted, and I want justice to be done."
The Court also heard representatives of
a group of writers and journalists (including Philippe Sollers, Michel
Braudeau, Josyane Savigneau, Francisco Arrabal) who came out in support of
Houellebecq and freedom of expression. They were mostly celebrities of
second rank, for the really big names chose to remain aloof. Pierre
Assouline, editor of the magazine Lire which had published the
offending statements, even came to testify that Houellebecq had displayed
a crude "aversion for Arabs" and that he had transgressed the boundaries
of literary provocation to lapse into a frenzy of pure "vengeance."
Interestingly, the public prosecutor demanded Houellebecq's unconditional
acquittal: "His statements are admittedly shocking, but we are not here to
moralize, only to determine penal guilt. And on those terms, I must
request his release."
Interrogated by the Court, Michel
Houellebecq explained that he had the right to criticize the "monotheistic
religions," adding some detail of what he considered wrong and
"hate-mongering" in the Bible as well as the Qur'an. He stood by the
utterances he had made in the offending interviews, that between the two
scriptures, he considered the Bible superior, as it had been written by
many writers, some of them "worthless as excrement" but others "true men
of genius" and "Jews, who are good at writing." By contrast, the Qur'an
was produced single-handedly by an Arab businessman who was a "rather
mediocre" writer. Summing up, he found the Qur'an a "devastatingly
depressing" book and Islam "the most stupid religion" as well as "a
dangerous religion since its very beginning."
The core of Houellebecq's defence was,
firstly, that criticism of a religion cannot fall under the legal category
of "racism" because Islam or the Muslim community is not a race; and
secondly, that criticism or even "hatred" of a religion doesn't imply
hatred of its adherents. He also expected people to understand from the
tone of his statements that his position regarding Islam was clearly not
one of "hatred" but one of contempt. To the question of one of the
prosecuting lawyers whether he "considered the Muslims stupid," he
clarified that he didn't think so, that he had never made such sweeping
generalizations about the Muslims, but that Islam as a belief system did
indeed remain "stupid" in his opinion. In particular, he felt it was time
to pin-prick the claim that "Islam preaches peace." 
This record illustrates two major
developments. Apologetic claims on behalf of Islam, engaged in by
governments and the media in hopes of smoothing the transition to the
multicultural society, are making way for a hard look at what Islamic
teachings really say, even as Islamist institutions develop a foot-hold in
A Ray of Hope
We conclude this update with a ray of
hope. Firstly, it is rare and getting even rarer that Muslim-majority
states, including declared Islamic Shari'a-based states, dare to
openly implement the whole procedure of arresting a "blasphemer,"
sentencing him to death and effectively executing him.
In Pakistan with its draconian
anti-blasphemy law, many people (mostly from the Christian and Ahmadiya
minorities) have been arrested on blasphemy charges, many of them have
been sentenced to years in prison, some have been sentenced to death, some
have been murdered in custody or at large, but in no case has the state
dared fully and formally to implement the whole course of its legal
provision of a death sentence. Thus, in 1995, two Christians were
sentenced to death for blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed: Salamat
Masih, an illiterate 14-year-old, alleged to have written blasphemous
words on the wall of a mosque, and his uncle, Rehmat Masih. However,
local and international support helped finance a High Court appeal and
they were acquitted of the charge. The authorities kept an eye closed when
the Masihs were smuggled out of Pakistan to find refuge in Germany,
relieved to be rid of a source embarrassment in its relations with what it
perceives as "Christian" America.
Ayub Masih, the Christian who had been
sentenced to death in 1998 on charges of propagating Salman Rushdie's
offending book, was still alive in February 2002 when he was allowed a
retrial. This was not coincidentally at a time when Pakistan's leader
General Pervez Musharraf was critically dependent on American support and
greatly embarrassed by regular attacks on Christian churches by Islamist
militants eager to thwart his alliance with the United States. Ayub Masih
was acquitted in August 2002 and immediately released from prison.
Other Muslim countries likewise try to
steer a middle course between Islamist demands for heavy penalties and a
more progressive international image. In Egypt, as noted above, sentences
demanded against and imposed upon religious offenders typically amount to
a few years in prison, or to some personal harassment such as an enforced
divorce. In Indonesia, Permadi Satrio Wiwoho,
who had called Muhammad a "dictator," was taken to court for "demeaning
the Islamic religion" and sentenced to seven months' jail: unsecular and
unpleasant, certainly, but not the end of the world either.
Iranian government support for the
Rushdie edict has been gradually declining and the trigger-happy days of
executing dissidents at home and abroad seem to be over. In the last weeks
of 1998 the writers Majid Sharif, Mohammad Moukhtari and Mohammad Ja'far
Pouyandeh were killed, as were the elderly couple Dariush Forouhar and
Parvaneh Eskandari. Instead of celebrating the death of these "apostates,"
the government announced on 6 January 1999 that "rogue elements" in its
own ranks, notably in the security forces, had been arrested for the
With its extreme dependence on foreign
aid, Bangladesh is understandably concerned about not offending Western
sensibilities too much., Its government did not insist on implementing the
prison sentence pronounced by a court against feminist author Taslima
Nasrin for her 1994 book Shame, much less the death sentence
pronounced by individual Muftis. Instead it preferred to send her into
exile and be rid of the whole controversy. Her latest book, Wild Wind,
is the object of yet another ban by the Islamist-leaning government of
Khaleda Zia, the reason given being that it "destroys the socio-political
amity of the country" and "contains anti-Islamic statements." But
book-banning is not the same thing as a death sentence or an
Non-governmental Islamist forces are
also becoming more circumspect. In Great Britain, after thousands of
Muslims openly shouted "We will kill Satan Rushdie," the next death edict,
against Pakistani-born Anwar Sheikh in 1995, was much more
restrained. Unlike the novelist Rushdie with his oblique and ironical
challenge to Islam, Sheikh very formally renounced and criticized Islam in
a bilingual English/Urdu quarterly, Liberty, and in a series of
erudite books. When news of his critique reached his homeland
Pakistan, at least fourteen clerics there issued death sentences against
him. A Pakistani daily reported:
All Pakistani clergy demand extradition
of the accursed renegade Anwar Shaikh from Britain to hang him publicly. *
renegade must be murdered—this is a fundamental rule of the Islamic Law—Anwar
Shaikh must be called back, some lover of the Prophet is bound to kill
him. * If he is not eliminated, more Rushdies will appear. He is an
apostate for denying heaven, hell, revelation, Koran, Prophet and angels.
The Muslims of the world are ready to behead the accursed renegade to
defend the magnificence of their Prophet.
But the Pakistani authorities never
demanded Anwar Sheikh's extradition and the powerful Pakistan-originated
Islamist groups in Britain never seriously threatened the offending
author. Britain-based muftis explained that Sheikh deserves the death
sentence but that it should not be carried out except by a duly
constituted authority in a proper Islamic state. Again, no attempt was
made to abduct the author to such an Islamic state for standing
trial. Shaikh continued to live discreetly but without police
protection in suburban Cardiff.
A pattern seems to be emerging in the
Muslim world: after a number of sensational murders or death threats
against "blasphemous" authors in the early 1990s, life for freethinkers
has become slightly safer again, with an unmistakable downward trend in
the murder and execution statistics. Could militant Islam have grown wary
of the negative publicity that comes from threatening writers for their
thoughts? If so, then the main reason would be the increased
interconnectedness of the world, especially with satellite-based
television and the internet.
Publicity can save lives. This was
already evident in the Soviet Union: whereas unknown local activists for
religious freedom or human rights were unceremoniously carted off to the
Gulag camps, high-profile dissidents with fan clubs in the West were not
physically eliminated, only thwarted in their careers. The same applies
with Islamists and explains why in Egypt or Lebanon, where the Western
presence is palpable through media, tourists and an American university,
judges award (and even prosecutors demand) sentences which fall far short
of the death sentence demanded by Islamic law for blasphemy and apostasy.
With the world media reporting within hours on the fatwa issued against
Taslima Nasrin, the government of Bangladesh simply couldn't risk
incurring the opprobrium of the world by leaving the author to her fate,
let alone by executing the death sentence on its own authority.
Today, stepping out of their cultural
isolation, even militant Muslims now have a strong feeling of being
watched and evaluated by the rest of the world. Governments concerned
about good trade relations with the West are highly sensitive about
foreign opinion, but even radical movements are increasingly PR-conscious.
To some extent, they feel forced to live up to their own rhetoric about
how advanced and civilized and humane the Islamic religion really is.
One practical implication is that
non-Muslim governments and intellectual circles should maintain or
increase their involvement with the situation of intellectual freedom in
the Muslim world. It does make a difference.
At the same time, Western sympathizers
should see their role as auxiliary. Like the West itself in the past few
centuries, the Muslim world is bringing forth its own circles of
freethinkers who are presently groping around for ways of communicating in
reasonable safety with their fellow born-Muslims. Arab, Iranian and
Pakistani dissidents (as yet typically residing in Western countries) have
set up websites where texts critical of Islam are made available, and
where all the latest information about particular cases of persecution is
centralized. This way, the authors can spread their message and the
interested Muslim-born seekers can read it without anyone much noticing,
thus silently but irrevocably changing the opinion climate in ever wider
enclaves of Muslim society. Voltaire is not dead, he's only being discreet
somewhere in the Orient.
Koenraad Elst is a Belgium-based writer
on comparative religion, Indian history, and Hindu-Muslim relations.
"Religious intolerance in Pakistan" (www.ReligiousTolerance.org).
Sunday Times (London), June 3, 1990.
Le Figaro (Paris), Aug. 10, 1992. In the 1940s,
Khomeini denounced the modernist historian Ahmad Kasravi, who was
India Times (Washington, D.C.), Feb. 1, 1992.
De Morgen (Brussels), Aug. 24, 1996.
Gazet van Antwerpen (Antwerp), Oct. 7, 1994.
De Standaard (Brussels), July 13, 1991.
"Radio Trottoir," BRTN Radio-1 (Brussels), Aug. 3,
Elsevier (Amsterdam), July 10, 1993.
Elsevier, July 10, 1993.
De Morgen, Aug. 12, 1994.
"Persecution of Christians in Islamic countries,"
Left Shoe News
Quoted in Arun Shourie's discussion of the affair:
"The Point We Always Evade," Observer of Business and Politics (Delhi),
May 18, 1992; included in his book Indian Controversies (Delhi: ASA,
1993), pp. 363-370.
De Standaard, Feb. 5, 1993.
De Morgen, Sept. 9, 1994.
De Standaard, May 7, 1997.
« Breakthrough in Kislali murder investigation »,
Kurdish Observer, Jan. 21, 2000.
Observer of Business and Politics, Jan. 29, 1993.
Interview in Cumhuriyet, cited in De Morgen, Aug. 9,
International Herald Tribune (Paris), Feb. 4, 1994.
International Herald Tribune, Feb. 4, 1994.
De Morgen, Oct. 18, 1994. Some characters in
Mahfouz's The Children of Gabalawi, as in Rushdie's The Satanic Verses,
are transparent allusions to the Prophet Muhammad and his companions,
which is why an Egyptian imam is quoted commenting: "If only we had
behaved in the proper Islamic manner with Naguib Mahfouz, we would not
have been assailed by the appearance of Salman Rushdie. Had we killed
Naguib Mahfouz, Salman Rushdie would not have appeared." Quoted in this
book, p. 148.
International Herald Tribune, Feb. 4, 1994.
De Standaard, July 15, 1996.
'Ala' Hamid: The Distance in a Man's Mind (1990).
Newsweek, Jan. 27, 1992.
Tahar ben Jelloun in De Morgen, Feb. 1, 1992.
The Economist (London), Jan. 25, 1992.
Gazet van Antwerpen, Aug. 7, 1996.
Der Spiegel, 1992/40.
Robert Burns, The Wrath of Allah (Houston: A. Ghosh,
Reported by Hassouna Moshabi in Die Zeit, Feb. 11,
Newsweek, July 19, 1993.
Gazet van Antwerpen, Oct. 17, 1994.
De Standaard, Mar. 12, 1994.
The article was printed in De Morgen, Dec. 15, 1994.
"Algeria: A Few Days in August," Left Shoe News
Archive (www.hraic.org), Aug. 25, 1997.
Hassane Zerrouky, "Matoub Lounès assassiné,"
L'Humanité (Paris), June 26, 1998.
Vide Ferhat Mehenni: "Communiqué du Mouvement
Autonomiste Kabyle en mémoire de Matoub Lounès,"
June 24, 2002.
Farid Alilat reviews the evidence in "Matoub: le
dossier qui fait peur," Le Matin (Algiers), Dec. 21, 2000.
Gazet van Antwerpen, Aug. 3, 1996.
The American Reporter, June 24, 1997.
Celean Jacobson: "Arab fashion designer under fire,"
The Associated Press, Aug. 26, 2002.
"Singer denounces blasphemy charge," BBC News, Oct.
3, 1999; "Blasphemy trial adjourned," BBC News, Nov. 3, 1999.
Bassam Tibi, "Wie Feuer und Wasser," Der Spiegel,
Sep. 20, 1994.
Rachid Boudjedra speaking to Libération, quoted in De
Morgen, July 22, 1992.
Times of India, Oct. 29, 1992.
Times of India, Dec. 6, 1994.
Times of India, Oct. 29, 1992.
Die Zeit (Hamburg), Feb. 11, 1994.
The Statesman (Calcutta), Dec. 23, 1992.
"Two Filipino Christians Beheaded in Saudi Arabia,"
Left Shoe News Archive (www.hraic.org),
July 27, 1997.
De Morgen, July 13, 1991.
't Pallieterke (Antwerp), Mar. 23,
Wereldwijd (Antwerp), July 1989.
Jean-Claude Barreau, De l'islam en général et de la
modernité en particulier (Paris: Le Pré aux Clerics, 1991).
Le Figaro, Nov. 13, 1991.
De Morgen, July, 14, 1990.
Le Figaro, Apr. 26, 1996; Le Monde, Jan. 21, 1998.
Voltaire, Mahomet the Prophet or Fanaticism: A
Tragedy in Five Acts, trans. Robert L. Myers, ( New York: Frederick
The Economist, July 2, 1994.
Emerson revealed his personal plight in "Foreign
Terrorists in America: Five Years After the World Trade Center Bombing,"
testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism,
Technology and Government Information, Feb. 24, 1998. The same testimony
also supplies extensive information on Islamist intimidation of writers
and journalists in the United States.
`Abd al-Qadir Yasin, Göteborgs-Posten (Göteborg),
quoted in Süddeutsche Zeitung, Apr. 25, 1992.
Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim (Amherst, N.Y.:
Alexandre del Valle, Islamisme et les [Au:
added the word les - okay?] Etats-Unis: Une Alliance contre l'Europe
(Lausanne: L'Age d'Homme, 1997).
Recalling the many cries of
"Death to Salman Rushdie," the author chose a pseudonym that means
"Muhammad the Prophet," calculating that Muslims would find it difficult
to shout "Death to Muhammad the Prophet."
Mohamed Rasoel, Ondergang van Nederland, Land der
Naïeve Dwazen (Amsterdam: Gerard Timmer, 1990).
NRC Handelsblad (Rotterdam), Mar. 6, 1989.
"De kleur van Mohamed Rasoel," Groene Amsterdammer,
Oct. 17, 1990.
NRC-Handelsblad, Oct. 19, 1990.
NRC Handelsblad, Dec. 17, 1992.
NRC Handelsblad, Feb. 29, 1992.
E.g. Ignacio Ramonet, "Islam contre Islam," Le Monde
Diplomatique, July 2002.
According to Tariq Ali, interviewed in Groene
Amsterdammer, Nov. 13, 1991.
Reuters, March 18, 2002.
Gazet van Antwerpen, Oct. 7, 1994.
Alain De Kuyssche, "La Belgique de nos enfants
sera-t-elle islamique?" Télémoustique, Oct. 7, 1994.
De Morgen, Oct. 5, 1994.
Herman Somers, Een Andere Mohammed (Antwerp:
Vide interview with Gerrit Timmers: "Ik geloof in
pragmatisme," De Standaard, May 24, 2002.
Vide Daniel Pipes: "An American
Rushdie?," Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2001.
Ebrahim Moosa: "Muslim world reacts:
silence of Islamic leaders harmful to great religion", Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, Oct. 14, 2001.
Vide Koenraad Elst: "De betekenis van Pim Fortuyn,"
Vivat Academia (Brussels), September 2002.
Yoram Stein: "Het vonnis
voltrekken zou de plicht zijn van iedere moslim," Trouw, Sep. 19, 2002.
"Hirsi Ali bedreigd na kritiek op islam," NRC
Handelsblad, Sep. 18, 2002.
Quoted by Sylvain Ephimenco in his column in Trouw,
Sep. 19, 2002.
"Hirsi Ali bedreigd na kritiek op islam," NRC
Handelsblad, Sep. 18, 2002.
In contrast, Yassin Hartog, coordinator of the integrationist
committee Islam en Burgerschap (Islam and Citizenship), thinks most
Muslims in the Netherlands don't make an issue of apostasy any more: "In
the Dutch setting, it is seen as a personal choice. This is not a debate
on apostasy. There is only an individual who has informed us that she
has secularized. That has induced certain prejudices in her. Thus, she
is fervently opposed to the creation of a separate Islamic school
network. I think the Somali community is angry with her for explaining
problems like the mistreatment of women as problems of Islam. Muslims as
a community feel she has attacked them." Sylvain Ephimenco in Trouw,
Sep. 19, 2002.
Yoram Stein: "Het vonnis
voltrekken zou de plicht zijn van iedere moslim," Trouw, Sep. 19, 2002.
Quoted by Sylvain Ephimenco in Trouw, Sep. 19, 2002.
Peter Dekkers, ed., Grenzeloze Haat (Amsterdam: Trouw/Rainbow,
2001); reviewed by Koenraad Elst in Punt, Feb. 12., 2002.
Bernard-Henri Lévy's column "Bloc-notes" in Le Point,
24 May 2002; P. Stouthuysen's review "De zonen van Allah" in De
Standaard, 25 July 2002; Rana Kabbani's review "Bible of the Muslim
Haters" in The Guardian, 11 June 2002, the review by Gilles Kepel in Le
Monde, 30 May 2002, by Mona Chollet in Périphérie, June 2002, etc.
Lévy's case is most peculiar: he promoted the Bangladeshi dissident
author Taslima Nasrin on a tour in Europe and attacked militant Islam in
his related book La Pureté Dangereuse (1994), yet he also worked as PR
adviser to Bosnia's Islamist president Alia Izetbegovic.
Interviews with Michel Houellebecq in Figaro
Magazine, August 2001, and in the leading literary magazine Lire,
This apparently refers to the author's painful first
experience with Islam: his mother had abandoned him when he was 6 and
she, upon completing her wild hippie years, converted to Islam.
"Relaxe requise pour Michel Houellebecq," Reuters,
Sep. 18, 2002.
"Michel Houellebecq admet son 'mépris pour l'islam'
mais pas pour les musulmans," Agence France-Presse, Sep. 17, 2002.
"Pakistan Blasphemy Update," Left Shoe News Archive (www.hraic.org),
Feb. 20, 1995.
Left Shoe News Archive (www.hraic.org),
Nov. 14, 1997.
Munir Ahmad: "Pakistani court orders Christian
freed," The Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 15, 2002.
"Blasphemy in Indonesia," Left Shoe News Archive (www.hraic.org),
June 23, 1995.
Index on Censorship, January 1999, with reference to
the revelations in the Iranian pro-reformist daily Salam, Jan. 5, 1999,
which forced the Government to denounce and arrested the suspected
"Shame," editorial in the Hindustan Times (New
Delhi), Aug. 29, 2002; interview with Taslima Nasrin in the Times of
India, Aug. 29, 2002.
Virendra Kapoor: "Another Salman Rushdie in the
making?" The Free Press Journal, Sep. 2, 1996.
Mainly Eternity (1990), Islam, the Arab National
Movement (1992), Islam (1994), and Faith & Deception (1996), all from
Principality Publishers, Cardiff, Anwar Sheikh's private publishing
Daily Sadaqat (Lahore), Oct. 21, 1995, quoted by Ibn
Warraq: "Anwar Shaikh: The Autobiography of an Apostate,"
Tariq Ali, "The case of Anwar Sheikh," in The Clash
of Fundamentalisms (London: Verso, 2002.