This censorship must be fought
newspaper editorial

Murdering writers is the most loathsome form of censorship.  But that’s exactly what Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini is trying to do with his three million dollar bounty on Indian author Salman Rushdie’s head.  Khomeini and other ruling Iranian clerics object to the irreverent depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in Rushdie’s new novel, The Satanic Verses.

Sadly, the bounty is already having its effect.  India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other nations have banned Rushdie’s novel.  Weak-kneed publishers in France, West Germany, Greece and Turkey decided not to publish it.

Frightened chain bookstore Waldenbooks has pulled  “The Satanic Verses” off its shelves in the United States. Employees’ lives may be in danger, a Waldenbooks official said.

Shock waves are only beginning.

Certainly an author somewhere is now having second thoughts about writing about that controversial or unpopular subject  which he or she  fears could just be “harmful to ones health.”

Instead, some authors will turn to safer and perhaps less relevant subjects.

Everyone is to suffer from this diabolical form of censorship that stifles serious exploration and examination of important issues or entertaining and creative literature.

This threat to free expression of ideas must be resisted by freedom-loving people.

It will take courage.

Iranian clerics say they ordered Rushdie and his publisher killed because “The Satanic Verses” is offensive to Islam.  What irony since their bounty is catapulting the novel onto best seller lists and ensuring further “offense” to Islam.

Can the novel be more offensive than the murderous tack it has provoked?  Furthermore, the multi-million dollar bounty could be viewed as appealing to the same baser motivations of western capitalism that Iran’s Islamic religious government says it deplores so much.

Censorship by death threat is also an insult to the kinder among the 540 million practitioners of Islam.  Tragically, it increases misunderstandings about one of the world’s largest religions.

As giving into kidnappers’ demands puts others into jeopardy by increasing the number of kidnappings, so will giving into this deadly attempt at censorship put other writers at risk.  Indeed, it puts freedom of speech and relevant and creative literature at risk.

Every effort should be made to protect would-be victims of Iran’s irrationals who apparently want to control even the ideas outside their own confined world.

Has the sword become mightier than the pen?  The Daily Herald hopes not.  Giving into this type of violent censorship means even more writers and freedom of expression will become its unfortunate victims.

A version of this editorial appeared in the Daily Herald, Provo, Utah

     Update since I wrote this editorial: The uproar over The Satanic Verses continued and there were deaths, although not Rushdie's.  Five people were killed in Islamabad by police during a protest over the novel.  A dozen protesters were killed in a protest at the British Embassy in Bombay.  Rushdie's Japanese translator was stabbed to death in Tokyo.  His Norwegian publisher was shot and severely injured in Oslo. His Italian translator was beaten and stabbed in Milan.  The UC Berkley book store was firebombed for carrying "The Satanic Verses."  Rushdie was burned in effigy in many places worldwide, and there were many book burnings. The musician known as  Cat Stevens who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam agreed with the death sentence but later said it should be ordered by a court in an Islamic country.  A bounty remains on Rushdie's head.
© 1999-2005 Pat Christian

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