Author Salman Rushdie knows a thing or two about Islamic intolerance. In 1989, he had a fatwa placed on him by Iranian cleric Ayatollah Khomeini. It seemed that the Ayatollah was bothered by Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, which contained a character based loosely on him — among other things. The fatwa that was placed on Rushdie pointed out to the world the intolerance of some Muslims to any form of satire of their faith.
In Britain, one man tried to sue Rushdie for blasphemous libel, while a group of Muslims tried to have the book banned. After a trial in which the group was required to present specific, legal reasons why this should happen, the High Office threw the case out and declared that blasphemy prosecutions would no longer be allowed.
Rushdie released a statement on Wednesday about the Paris massacre of 10 writers and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper:
“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”
Rushdie shared his statement on Twitter:
He is not the only one. On Twitter, the hashtag JeSuisCharlie reveals many expressions of solidarity and grief. Some of the cartoons are heart-wrenching. Some are inspiring. This one is both:
Thank you, all authors, writers, cartoonists, satirists and free-thinkers for speaking out against this archaic form of dealing with disagreement. We are not afraid. #JeSuisCharlie