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Rushdie's Verses: Good vs. Evil Misundertood (standard:non fiction, 2257 words)
Author: Bobby ZamanAdded: Nov 07 2002Views/Reads: 10409/1595Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
An essay on Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, distanced from the "Anti-Islamic" rhetoric and accusations of "blasphemy" with which the novel has been charged.
 



Rushdie’s Verses: Good vs. Evil Misunderstood By Bobby Zaman 

Sifting through the mountain of essays and criticism that have risen
from the desks of scholars on Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic 
Verses could very well be an exercise in futility, deciphering the 
myriad allegations that question his credibility as a writer, a 
considerable waste of time.  Before going on, let it be stated here 
that Rushdie is first and foremost a storyteller and a reservoir of 
staggering imagination, having successfully sunk his quill into the 
jugular of the English language from whence pours a new stream of 
consciousness, a new lingo, and English ­ as we know it ­ succumbs to 
his pen like a confused actor in the hands of a seasoned director. 

The tragedy has been embedded and continues to linger in the literary
world ­ by no means shaped by it ­ that TSV is a novel that “blasphemed 
Islam.”  The time has come and gone to get over taking such shortcuts 
to thinking.  The Ayatollah is dead, fundamentalism is still an active 
poison coursing through the veins of humanity ­ a necessary evil some 
may surmise ­ and somewhere in some hole in the nether regions of 
society, some dreg looking for a reason for his or her existence might 
have it out for Rushdie, thinking it a duty in the name of Islam. 

TSV is a story of good vs. evil.  It is no more satirizing and
blasphemous than an episode of The Simpsons.  Gibreel Farishta and 
Saladin Chamcha are Bart and Lisa Simpson ­ fiercely competitive, 
retelling myths and history, and poking jabs at everything that crosses 
their young perceptions. 

The principal players in TSV  - Farishta and Chamcha ­ maintain obvious
differences with the spawn of Homer and Marge: they are not young 
schoolchildren, they aren’t infused in the bloodline of popular culture 
to the extent of having a cult-like following, and Rushdie does not 
imply anywhere that they are animated characters for the sole purpose 
of entertainment, no matter how socially relevant the subject matter of 
a Simpsons episode; they are, however, actors, thereby being the 
emissaries of the world of suspending disbelief to the sphere where 
disbelief awakens to fascinating mistakes.  Wrapping up this Simpsons 
analogy, it may be said that nothing is sacred to the dysfunctional 
family from Springfield that has become a commentary on the American 
psyche in more than a decade of its successful run. 

Little is seldom sacred in literature.  As in life, so in print, nobody
that cares seriously about being stimulated in the slightest manner, 
wants to read about endings that invoke the image of starry eyed 
protagonists running through fields and ushering in a hammed up happy 
ending.  Without realizing, many a time have people called such books 
cheesy.  The good stuff will always cause a ruckus, be it positive or 
negative; and that is where the pen reconfirms its might over the 
sword. 

On Valentine’s Day 1989 Salman Rushdie received a message that redefined
in his world this sacred day for lovers around the world.  It was not 
from a loved one nor was it a missive of passion.  It was a threat 
against his life from Iran’s erstwhile ruling cleric the Ayatollah 
Ruhollah Khomeini, and he wanted Rushdie’s head on a platter for 
allegedly desecrating Islam in TSV. Since then, the mayhem over the 
book proliferated masses in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, of course 
Iran, inciting riots and book burnings.  Lost in the hurly-burly was 
the actual book, the story, the novel about the perpetual battle 
between good and evil that has been part and parcel of literature from 
the Greeks to the Mahbharata, from Shakespeare to Milton, from Goethe 
to Shaw ­ and the list goes on. 

If one were to look to Kurt Vonnegut for a quick second, Cat’s Cradle
could be brought off the shelf for a scan of the religious commentary 
it poses. Religions are a pack of lies to lure the masses into belief 
of anything that comes from the mouth of someone who sounds like they 
know a thing or two. Thus is constructed the cat’s cradle with faith 
covering under its name a false existence.  In his career-making book, 
Vonnegut uses Bokononism as the example, the religion of the island of 
San Lorenzo.  Bokonon, founder and embodiment of Bokononism, came to 
the island, saw its uncivilized and needy masses, brought them the 
doctrine of Bokononism in a series of songs, and converted the populace 
to his invention.  Vonnegut does not feel the need to make any 
reference to a particular religion that is being “mocked” by this 


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