Indignity Vol. 2, No. 67: Who won the Rushdie Stabbing?
TAKING LIBERTIES DEP'T.
DEP'T. OF CORRECTIONS
A BRIEF HOUSEKEEPING note: in our excitement over reaching Indignity's one-year anniversary, we fumbled our newsletter numbering system, skipping Vol, 2, No. 64 entirely. We are retroactively renumbering our previously sent Nos. 65 through 67, to close up the gap and rectify the count. The Vol. 2, No. 67 you received last week, therefore, is now officially Vol. 2, No. 66, and this edition is the new No. 67. Indignity apologizes for any confusion, including any further confusion brought on by this message.
TAKING LIBERTIES DEP'T.
Knives Out for Free Speech
IN 1989, THE Ayatollah Khomeini published a piece of writing and broadcast it over the radio—an open letter, effectively. In it, he expressed his opinion, in his capacity as Supreme Leader of Iran and guide to the Shia faith, that the author Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses was blasphemous, and that Muslims had a duty to kill Rushdie and anyone else involved in the publication of the book, "so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth."
Khomeini's statement, or fatwa, helped persuade people to commit acts of violence around the world. In the months and years that followed, Rushdie went into hiding, one of the novel's translators was assassinated and another seriously wounded, and dozens of other people died in riots, bombings, or arson attacks.
On Friday, an attacker ran onto the stage where Rushdie was appearing in Chautauqua, New York, and stabbed him multiple times, in an apparent attempt to fulfill the long-dead Iranian cleric's orders. Rushdie reportedly suffered permanent injuries. His accused assailant was not even born when The Satanic Verses was published. It was a sickening reminder, after decades of apparent calm, that violent outrage does not respect the boundaries of space and time, and it certainly does not obey the attention-rationing of the discourse cycle.
Alternatively, it was an opportunity to inflate one's own position in the discourse cycle of 2022. People who have made their careers complaining about "cancel culture" saw, in the wounded Rushdie, a vindication. Here, at last, was someone unquestionably being targeted for his writing, beyond any dispute about the contradictions of liberalism or the limits of free speech. Salman Rushdie had even been among the signers of the much-criticized Harper's letter that lamented "an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty."
Did someone say "blinding moral certainty"? "Of course it is 2022 that the Islamists finally get a knife into Salman Rushdie," Bari Weiss, the outrage promoter and fellow signer of the Harper's letter, wrote. The attack was the natural result, Weiss argued, of the "indulgence and cowardice" of people who argue that words can be violence. "Of course it is now, when words are literally violence and J.K. Rowling literally puts trans lives in danger and even talking about anything that might offend anyone means you are literally arguing I shouldn’t exist," Weiss wrote.
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