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“Words are Violence” Crowd Sanctions The Attack on Salman Rushdie

“This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organized, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence.” – Salman Rushdie

 

Writes Bari Weiss on the stabbing in the neck of author Salman Rushdie who “has lived half of his life with a bounty on his head—some $3.3 million promised by the Islamic Republic of Iran to anyone who murdered him”:

We live in a culture in which many of the most celebrated people occupying the highest perches believe that words are violence. In this, they have much in common with Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued the first fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, and with Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old who, yesterday, appears to have fulfilled his command when he stabbed the author in the neck on a stage in Western New York.

The first group believes they are motivated by inclusion and tolerance—that it’s possible to create something even better than liberalism, a utopian society where no one is ever offended. The second we all recognize as religious fanatics. But it is the indulgence and cowardice of the words are violence crowd that has empowered the second and allowed us to reach this moment, when a fanatic rushes the stage of a literary conference with a knife and plunges it into one of the bravest writers alive.

[…] And yet as shocking as this attack was, it was also 33 years in the making: The Satanic Verses is a book with a very bloody trail.

She goes on to recount the horrific number of murders, stabbings, bookstore bombings and burnings, and anti-Rushdie riots, noting the courage of those defending Rushdie in the 1980s, and how the intellectuals of today condemn Rushdie, and those like him who dare to speak what they believe:

…the difference between civilization and barbarism is that civilization responds to words with words. Not knives or guns or fire. That is the bright line. There can be no excuse for blurring that line—whether out of religious fanaticism or ideological orthodoxy of any other kind.

Today our culture is dominated by those who blur that line—those who lend credence to the idea that words, art, song lyrics, children’s books, and op-eds are the same as violence. We are so used to this worldview and what it requires—apologize, grovel, erase, grovel some more—that we no longer notice. It is why we can count, on one hand—Dave Chappelle; J.K. Rowling—those who show spine.

Another lesson to draw from the attack is made by Daniel Pipes, noting that “Salman Rushdie was never safe“:

Will the rest of us learn from this sad tale? Russia and China are certainly great power foes, but Islamism is an ideological threat. Its practitioners range from the rabid (ISIS) to the totalitarian (the Islamic Republic of Iran) to the mock-friendly (the Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan). They threaten via propaganda, subversion, and violence. They mobilise not just in the caves of Afghanistan but in idyllic resort towns like Chautauqua, New York.

Related:

Religious Terrorism vs. Free Speech by Leonard Peikoff
Ayatollah Khomeni’s attack on Salman Rushdie and his publishers represents religious terrorism. Americans oppose the Ayatollah’s death-decree, but our government is doing nothing to combat it.

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