For Rushdie, the essentials of religion are fairly simple. He is not concerned with scriptural hermeneutics or jurisprudential subtleties. Religion is not even a matter of ethics. It is a matter of whether you believe in God or not, and if you don’t, which he doesn’t, what to do about this fellow Muhammad?This was going to be a very different post. It was about my bucket list of book titles. But in view of the horrific massacre of Christchurch by a white supremacist terrorist, I thought I would use this post to talk a little bit about the idea of Islam in the world. You see, Islam is not the same it was when Rushdie published The Satanic Verses and a price was put on his head. Neither is withe supremacy. The man in the White House has created a poisonous racist and xenophobic cocktail that has promoted the resurgence of racist hate groups in the US and abroad. Want more proof of this fact than the terrorist who killed 50 people in New Zealand mentioned Cheetolini as an inspiration and also told people to go watch white nationalist and thinly veiled nazi videos on youtube? I didn't think so. The reticence of Cheeto to recognize racial hatred is only explained by his desire to pander to racists and bigots: his fervent admirers.
I still think I would like to read this book. Read it as it was intended, as a fictional story, not as an indictment of a religion that can be -and has been- used as a weapon. And I don't want to read the book as a starting point for atheism. That's not my motivation. The Satanic Verses has been in print for about thirty years and today the book doesn't seem as incendiary as it was when it was published, even though we have seen in recent years that trying to put a face to the prophet is still dangerous. Remember Chalie Hebdo? But as I see it, nowadays white supremacy is an even bigger terrorist threat in the US than Islam ever has been. That is something that some people fail to see.
So yes, Salman Rushdie's tale of the two Muslim guys who fall from a plane and find themselves involved in all kinds of shenanigans dealing with their faith feels strangely tame today. Especially, as I mentioned, after white supremacy has demonstrated to be a source of much more terrorism than the so called Islamic invasion that Cheeto and his racist minions and admirers peddle. Salman Rushdie is still alive and kicking, even after the Fatwa that was declared after The Satanic Verses was published. But I think that it is still necessary to look at the underside of all religions. Even though most religious people are not zealots blinded by dogma, to me it feels almost compulsory to de-mythify all the lies and contradictions and plain fuckery that organized religion is based upon while at the same time, shine a light on what the religion itself means, especially if it does it in such an insightful way as The Satanic Verses does.
This endeavor feels especially urgent with the Abrahamic religions. not to debunk them, which is something that would never work with the believer, but to open the curtain and let the world see the magician behind it. Declawing dogma really brings understanding to the underlying truth about the mythology behind it. So I'm going to try and put this book in my reading list. I have many candidates in that list, though, and I don't know when I'll read it. But rest assured it will be there.