June 28, 2002

Salman Rushdie: Where Are the Muslims Against Terrorism?

A nice plea from Salman Rusdie for the world's Muslims--politicians, intellectuals, whatever--to figure out who their real enemies are and where the real threat to their descendants' lives come from...


washingtonpost.com: Gods and Monsters | Salman Rushdie |

...Some of us have been listening out for something else: the emergence of a genuine Muslim polemic against the harm the terrorists are doing to their "own people." The war against Islamist terror will only be won when Muslims around the world begin to believe that fanaticism is a greater evil than that which they believe the United States to embody -- an evil, moreover, more damaging to Muslims, more socially, economically and politically destructive, and possessed by the nightmare vision of the Talibanization of the planet. After nine months during which it has been repeatedly stressed that most Muslims are not terrorists, but ordinary, decent human beings, it would be good to point to the birth of an international Muslim movement against terrorism. Unfortunately no such movement has emerged, nor is there the slightest indication that it may yet do so.... But if, indeed, most of the world's 1 billion Muslims want nothing to do with terrorism, as we are constantly being told, then it's time that their leaders, educators, information media and intelligentsia stopped creating the preconditions for that terrorism by perpetuating the image of a satanic, Polyphemus-like America that is well worth destroying.

washingtonpost.com

Gods and Monsters
The war on terror will only be won when Muslims believe that terrorism is more damaging than America.

By Salman Rushdie

Friday, June 28, 2002; Page A29

As the leaders of al Qaeda evade capture, regroup and return to the al-Jazeera airwaves to offer menaces and derision, the United States looks increasingly like a blind giant, flailing uselessly about: like, in fact, the blinded Cyclops Polyphemus of Homeric myth, who was only one-eyed to begin with, who had that eye put out by Ulysses and his fugitive companions, and who was reduced to roaring in impotent rage and hurling boulders in the general direction of Ulysses' taunting voice.

Indeed, the allegedly still-living Osama bin Laden might find the story of Ulysses and Polyphemus useful as an allegory of his own battle against the Great Satan of America. (Polyphemus, after all, is a sort of evil superpower, a stupid creature of great, brute force who respects no laws or gods and devours human flesh, whereas Ulysses is crafty, devious, slippery, uncatchable and dangerous.) Then again, he might not, for by wounding Polyphemus Ulysses aroused the wrath of the Cyclops's father, Poseidon, the sea god who rules over the fate of all wanderers and fugitives, and was doomed never to return home until all his men were lost and home itself had grown anything but homely.

Allegory will take you only so far, however, and I rather doubt that Osama bin Laden spends much time poring over Book 9 of "The Odyssey"; but one of the more worrying aspects of our more-than-worrying times is the extent to which the ordinary citizenry of the Muslim world is prepared to go along with the Osama bin Laden mob's characterization of America in particular, and of the West and "the Jews" in general, as monstrous.

This, in spite of a concerted Western effort to counter the opposite of this kind of demonization. In the United States since Sept. 11, and also in a Europe alarmed by the resurgence of the far right, there have been and continue to be laudable efforts to prevent Muslims from being tarred with the terrorist brush. Muslim voices, those of the people on the Arab, Afghan, Pakistani or Kashmiri streets as well as those of intellectuals and politicians, are being given media time and space, and are being listened to. (The British Guardian newspaper's decision to spend a whole week spotlighting "Islamophobia" is a recent example.) Most of the voices we have heard have had extremely harsh things to say about the United States of America, and its arrogance, brutality, ignorance and so on.

It is difficult not to feel that even in the most civilized of these voices there is less passion for the battle against terrorism than there is for the polemics of victimization by the American Cyclops. It is difficult not to hear, in the widespread condemnations of the West's sybaritic, hedonist, sex-obsessed individualism, milder echoes of the fanatical puritanism of the Islamist extremists. It is difficult not to hear, beneath the condemnations of America's suffering at the hands of Sept. 11 murderers, a gleeful note of schadenfreude; it is difficult to ignore the admiration for the terrorists' success in giving America a bloody nose. It is hard, too, to forget that Gallup poll, taken across the Muslim world a few months ago, in which, by a big margin, those interviewed denied Muslim responsibility for Sept. 11.

Some of us have been listening out for something else: the emergence of a genuine Muslim polemic against the harm the terrorists are doing to their "own people." The war against Islamist terror will only be won when Muslims around the world begin to believe that fanaticism is a greater evil than that which they believe the United States to embody -- an evil, moreover, more damaging to Muslims, more socially, economically and politically destructive, and possessed by the nightmare vision of the Talibanization of the planet. After nine months during which it has been repeatedly stressed that most Muslims are not terrorists, but ordinary, decent human beings, it would be good to point to the birth of an international Muslim movement against terrorism. Unfortunately no such movement has emerged, nor is there the slightest indication that it may yet do so.

It's true that the U.S. government has seemed at times to be doing its best to justify comparisons to the blinded Cyclops -- except that this is a Polyphemus whose blindness is largely self-inflicted. The litany of pre-9/11 intelligence errors has been repeated many times -- the shelved reports, the untranslated warnings, the sheer doltishness of American officialdom. We know now that many prominent Bushies were busily opposing the allocation of resources to intelligence work right up to the moment of the attacks. And we know that in spite of the full deployment of all America's resources, no one has come up with a location for the hiding place of her greatest foe. One can't help feeling that the word "intelligence" is a misnomer here -- that "unintelligence" might be more accurate, or even "stupidity." The U.S. authorities claim that this period of blindness is at an end, that many conspiracies have been frustrated, many threats identified, and some arrests made (even though, as in the case of the execrable Jose Padilla, they have been made on the very flimsiest of evidence). Time will tell who is right: al Qaeda's blood-curdling spokesman Sulaiman Abu-Ghaith or the U.S. government. Nobody I know is confident of the outcome.

America can indeed look much like an ugly, blundering giant. America's Middle East policy, for example, is the terrorists' single greatest propaganda weapon, and the new Bush hard line is not exactly designed to change that. But if, indeed, most of the world's 1 billion Muslims want nothing to do with terrorism, as we are constantly being told, then it's time that their leaders, educators, information media and intelligentsia stopped creating the preconditions for that terrorism by perpetuating the image of a satanic, Polyphemus-like America that is well worth destroying.

Salman Rushdie is the author of "Fury" and other novels.

Posted by DeLong at June 28, 2002 02:25 PM

Comments

THIS WEBSITE SUCKS! WHY DO MUSLIMS HAVE TO BE WILD LIKE AMERICANS AND HAVE MOVEMENTS AGAINST TERRORISM? WE ARE MORE SOPHISTICATED THAN THAT AND DO NOT WAIST OUR TIME ON THINGS TAT ARE IN OUR PAST. OF COURSE WE ARE AGAINST TERROROISM. OKAY YOU ASSES! YOU BETTER TAKE THIS FUDGING ARTICLE OFF THIS WEBSITE OR I'LL SUE YOUR BUTTS!

Posted by: ASHLEY SOLOMON on April 28, 2003 05:24 PM

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THIS WEBSITE SUCKS! WHY DO MUSLIMS HAVE TO BE WILD LIKE AMERICANS AND HAVE MOVEMENTS AGAINST TERRORISM? WE ARE MORE SOPHISTICATED THAN THAT AND DO NOT WAIST OUR TIME ON THINGS ThAT ARE IN OUR PAST.

Posted by: ASHLEY SOLOMON on April 28, 2003 05:24 PM

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I recently came across Salman Rushdie in the library. I read his work, and was sort of puzzled. Is he a muslim, bearing a muslim name himself. And there are articles condemning him saying that he is against Islam. Who is he? Why does he mock this great religion?

Posted by: Alex on November 19, 2003 07:04 PM

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I am in complete agreement with the argument made by yourself and salman rushdie. One more thing I'd like to add is that americans are not helping themselves by waging a war against poor nations.

Posted by: 7 card stud on January 12, 2004 02:36 AM

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