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India: Salman Rushdie - We’re all too easily offended these days

Saturday 21 December 2013, by siawi3

Monday, August 12, 2013

Salman Rushdie - We’re all too easily offended these days
People get offended too easily nowadays with their identity being defined by what “pisses them off”, says Booker prize winning author Salman Rushdie. According to the controversial writer, a new “culture of offendedness” has invaded the world with more people defining themselves by hate. Explaining himself, Rushdie said, “Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we are asked to define ourselves by hate. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?”

Rushdie also spoke out about his life under a fatwa and called his time in police protection “a comedy routine” . He recalled a dinner at fellow writer Hanif Kureishi’s house. Guardian quoted Rushdie as saying “one of the police officers left his gun behind . And for Hanif of course this was like a transcendent moment of joy. He ran out into the street, holding the gun by the barrel, shouting,”Here, you forgot your shooter .“The Guardian said Rushdie had no premonition of the storm that would greet the publication of ’The Satanic Verses’ , when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him in 1989.”People who were conservative Muslim believers had not liked any of my books, so I expected them not to like it and my view was, ’So what?’ In general if you don’t want to read a book then don’t . That’s why there are all these books in bookstores for you to choose from. If you start reading a book and you don’t like it you always have the option of shutting it. At this point it loses its capacity to offend you.“He added,”I do think one of the characteristics of our age is the growth of this culture of offendedness. It’s got something to do with the rise of identity politics, where you are invited to define your identity quite narrowly. What’s happened in this age is we are asked to define ourselves by hate.“The Independent said Rushdie felt many of those involved in protests over the book, in which copies were burned in the streets of Bradford , now regretted it.”One of the few things that I thought was cause for optimism ... was that... Everybody that was interviewed regretted it. Some of them regretted because they thought it was tactically bad... But what was interesting was that they all said, ’We wouldn’t want to do something like that again’."
Debate -

NB - The comments beneath the news report, as well as the dissenting view in the TOI debate, are noteworthy for leaving out a crucial consideration - viz., the issue of violence and intimidation. Indeed, the comments include a repetition of the threats to the author’s physical safety, with one person saying he’s lucky to be alive. It is precisely this that fuels stereotypes of intolerance. No one denies you the freedom to be offended (although I must say that child soldiering and assaults on women and arms expenditure offend me much more than critical remarks about religion). But who gives people the right to issue threats to life and limb? Does this not recreate the atmosphere of a communal riot, where mobs commit violence without fear of the law? The central issue behind the politics of offence is not the mindless nature of such pastimes - if the honour of Islam and Hinduism is best served via the burning of books and underwear, so be it - but the fact that it is used by certain political factions to unleash violence through controlled mobs.
Long live blasphemy! Dilip