cover image For Rushdie: Essays by Arab and Muslim Writers in Defense of Free Speech

For Rushdie: Essays by Arab and Muslim Writers in Defense of Free Speech

Salman Rushdie, Anouar Abdallah. George Braziller, $27.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8076-1354-2

The 91 Arab and Muslim writers in this collection have labelled Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses absurdly brilliant, ponderously dull and extremely offensive, sometimes all in the same essay. Many of these commentators have never even read the book, living as they do in countries where it has been banned. Yet all have taken up the cause of the writer, who for five years has lived under the late Ayatollah Khomeini's infamous fatwa , or sentence of capital punishment. Many particularly resent Khomeini's subversion of Islamic law to terrorist ends, especially when directed at a British author who is no longer a practicing Muslim. Others use their pieces to inform Western audiences about the numerous unsung martyrs to creative expression in the Middle East, from the Egyptian intellectual Farag Foda to the Saudi Arabian poet Sadiq Melallah. A few contributors criticize the Western media for seizing upon the Rushdie affair as a symbol of the intolerance Islam preaches, when Khomeini's followers by no means constitute a majority of believers. All of the 91 authors, however, recognize the importance of free and open discourse and bemoan the wave of Islamic fundamentalists who have turned their backs on human rights altogether. As the Libyan writer Amin Maalouf writes, ``No doctrine dies from being criticized, or even attacked; but it can die from being made impermeable to criticism.'' (Apr.)