Europe shocked by attack on Salman Rushdie


European Union


Rushdie in 2019 in Berlin. Photo EPA, Hayoung Jeon

The attack on the author Salman Rushdie has been quite a shock for Europe. Almost 35 years after the fatwa, not many people had expected that this would happen.

Rushdie was the target of a knife attack last Friday in New York in the US. In 1988, his book "Satanic verses" was subject to a strong Islamic outrage and was hit by a fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. According to the Iranian cleric, anybody had the right to kill the author since his book contained insults to the prophet Muhammad.

True belief needs criticism, said the Norwegian Christian daily Vart Land in an editorial. That means that the freedom of expression should remain without compromise. Also, the criticism of Islam and the Quran in Rushdie's book is entirely "legitimate", according to the paper.

"Criticism of religion must never be read as a threat to religious people. For faith to exist, there must be someone who challenges this faith. It should apply in Islam, just as much as in Christianity, Judaism or other views of life. Rushdie's voice has been important here." This is the opposite of what Muslims usually express.

Vebjørn Selbekk, editor of the Norwegian Dagen, himself lived with police protection after his life was threatened in the wake of the caricature dispute in 2006. He had chosen to publish several of the Muhammad cartoons in the magazine he was leading at that moment.

On Norwegian TV, he said that he was deeply affected by Friday's attack. "This is a man who has written a novel, a work of fiction, in which he has allowed himself to dwell on a theme in Islam", Selbekk told the channel according to Dagen. "A religion and a topic cannot be treated in a special way because there are people in that religion who threaten violence because they read something they don't like. It is evil, and we must fight that."

New prints

All over Europe, people call to read Rushdie's book. Vart Land reports about the Norwegian author Jan Kjærstad, who posted a photo on Facebook with the book.

Jan Kjærstad with the book. Photo Facebook

In several countries, like Norway and the Netherlands, the book went to press again since new copies were offered on the market.

According to the French Catholic daily La Croix, Rushdie thinks that all religions are "a form of mafia". He is a "fierce opponent of all forms of the veil", which is an "instrument of oppression." His grandmother was a devout Muslim but "would never have consented to wear any form of the veil."



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