Friday, November 17, 2006

Thoughts from Salman Rushdie

FrontPage Magazine has the transcript of an October 11 lecture given by Salman Rushdie in New York City. It is a lengthy and wide ranging set of remarks, one well worth reading. While I disagree with Mr. Rushdie on certain issues, he is dead on in his understanding of the threat posed by radical Islamism, no doubt due to his own experiences. Please be sure to read his remarks. In the meantime, here are some relevant passages:

I suppose one has to mention the Danish cartoons. I ran into a young journalist at a party in New York working for a small New York magazine who said that he’d been obliged to quit his job because his proprietor refused to publish the cartoons because he was worried about his offices getting bombed. And this kind of cravenness was worldwide. And the name that the cravenness was given was respect. When people said that they didn’t publish them out of respect for Muslims, what they meant is they didn’t publish them because they were afraid of their offices getting bombed.

And when you create that kind of a climate of fear, when you concede, you give in to that kind of intimidation, you don’t as a result have less intimidation. I mean as a result you have more intimidation. Because I think with the cartoons, there were really two quite separate issues. One is whether you thought the cartoons were good or bad and should have been published or shouldn’t have been published and those are decisions that every newspaper editor makes every day, and different editors would make different decisions. Some would say yes, we will publish it, some would say no, and that’s, in a way, not even a contentious issue.

But the second issue is when the subject of intimidation enters, then the question is how do you respond to intimidation, and do you give into it or do you not give into it. I think when the intimidation became as heavy as it did, the only proper response was everybody should have published the cartoons the next day. And not to do that was a way of showing that threats work. The purpose of terrorism is to create terror and if you show yourself to be terrified then the terrorists have done their work.

This is a curious climate that we’re living in where people are falling over backwards not to name the phenomenon that’s taking place, which is the progressive intimidation of the world in which we live. But as I say, I’m not talking about these great big geopolitical things going on elsewhere in the world; I’m talking about what is in our own hands to discuss and argue about and fix, what is happening in our town, what is happening in our culture. And the way in which things that, certainly I think we in this room probably all value a deal, are being eroded by this kind of intimidation and cowardice and by an unwillingness to call things by their true name.

And I have found one of the most strange things about the last, you know, 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in all this, is that the left and the liberal intelligentsia have not been good on this. And that in many cases you find yourself agreeing with people that you’ve never agreed with in your life before. The wrong people are on your side. And the “right people”—or in other words, the left people—are on the wrong side because there has been on the left for a long time this view that, Third World, good; First World, oppressive and bad. And that kind of Third Worldism has led to some very strange intellectual mistakes here, part of which is a kind of infantilization of people to say that they don’t know any better, which would not happen if you were dealing with anyone else who was not brown of skin.

(Emphasis added-DD)


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