30 Years On, Why ‘The Satanic Verses’ Remains So Controversial
Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ was published 30 years ago, yet it remains controversial.
What was – and still is – behind this outrage?
The book, “The Satanic Verses,” goes to the heart of Muslim religious beliefs when Rushdie, in dream sequences, challenges and sometimes seems to mock some of its most sensitive tenets.
Muslims believe that the was visited by the angel Gibreel – Gabriel in English – who, over a 22 year period, recited God’s words to him. In turn, Muhammed repeated the words to his followers. These words were eventually written down and became the and chapters of the .
Rushdie’s novel takes up these core beliefs. One of the main characters, Gibreel Farishta, has a series of dreams in which he becomes his namesake, the angel Gibreel.
In these dreams, Gibreel encounters another central character in ways that echo Islam’s traditional account of the angel’s encounters with Muhammed.
Rushdie chooses a provocative name for Muhammed. The novel’s version of the Prophet is called Mahound – an alternative name for Muhammed sometimes used during the Middle Ages by Christians who considered him .
In addition, Rushdie’s Mahound puts his own words into the angel Gibreel’s mouth and delivers edicts to his followers that conveniently bolster his self-serving purposes. Even though, in the book, Mahound’s fictional scribe, Salman the Persian, rejects the authenticity of his master’s recitations, he records them as if they were God’s.
Challenging Religious Texts?
For many Muslims, Rushdie, in his fictional retelling of the birth of Islam’s key events, implies that, rather than God, the Prophet Muhammed is himself the source of revealed truths.
In Rushdie’s defense, some scholars have argued that his is intended to explore whether it is possible to separate fact from fiction. Literature expert points out that Gibreel is unable to decide what is real and what is a dream.
Since the publication of “The Satanic Verses,” Rushdie has argued that religious texts should be . “Why can’t we debate Islam?” . “It is possible to respect individuals, to protect them from intolerance, while being skeptical about their ideas, even criticising them ferociously.”
This view, however, clashes with the view of those for whom the Quran is the literal word of God.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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