In Joseph Anton – A memoir, Salman Rushdie’s account of the fatwa years following the 1989 publication of The Satanic Verses, he provides many reflections and ruminations on the political situation of the time. Some are in the form of letters written to public figures (many of whom behaved abominably in siding with Islamic theocrats and mistaken apologists for the dead-hand moral relativist ‘multiculturalism’ project infecting western countries in recent decades) but never sent. This one, addressed to the then well-known radical black British MP Bernie Grant encapsulates perfectly what was wrong then, and what is wrong today in the public discourse of terrorism, religious fundamentalism and freedom of thought.
Dear Bernie Grant, MP,
“Burning books,” you said in the House of Commons exactly one day after the fatwa, “is not a big issue for blacks.” The objections to such practices, you claimed, were proof that “the whites wanted to impose their values on the world.” I recall that many black leaders – Dr Martin Luther King for example – were murdered for their ideas. To call for the murder of a man for his ideas would therefore appear to the bewildered outsider to be a thing which a black member of Parliament might find horrifying. Yet you do not object. You represent, sir, the unacceptable face of multiculturalism, its deformation into an ideology of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is the death of ethical thought, supporting the right of tyrannical priests to tyrannize, of despotic parents to mutilate their daughters, of bigoted individuals to hate homosexuals and Jews, because it is a part of their “culture” to do so. Bigotry, prejudice and violence or the threat of violence are not human “values.” They are proof of the absence of such values. They are not the manifestations of a person’s “culture”. They are indications of a person’s lack of culture. In such crucial matters, sir, to quote the great monochrome philosopher Michael Jackson, it don’t matter if you’re black or white.