News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Rushdie on Islam and Islamism

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rushdie on Islam and Islamism

I think Indian author Salman Rusdie's comments about Islam and Islamism in a recent interview with CNN are balanced and wise. His comments show up some important things: 1) it's a war within Islam that we're seeing played out, and 2) Islam is nowhere near as monolithic as the Islamophobes would have us believe. ...

According to Rushdie:

[Rushdie] But I also think -- I mean, one of the people coming to the PEN Festival, the great Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen. And his new book, "Identity and Violence," shows, gives, I think, the part of the answer, which is that when we define our identities very narrowly -- whether religion or race or class, whatever it may be -- when we define ourselves at [sic] only one thing, it becomes much easier to adopt an adversarial position to other one things.

And I think that is one of the great curses of our time, that we see ourselves as Muslim or Christian, or Eastern or Western. And these very simple definitions make collisions much more likely to happen.

[CNN reporter] GORANI: One quick last question, and this is a very general question and it's very difficult, clearly, to answer in one minute, which is the time we have left, but is this really a clash of civilizations between the West and the Muslim world or is it something different?

RUSHDIE: I don't believe it is entirely. I mean, clearly there is an aspect of radical Islam which is on a collision course with a kind of Western culture that it dislikes. But there is also an enormous battle taking place inside the Muslim world between, if you like, more open and more closed descriptions of the world.

Kashmir, for example, which I wrote my last novel "Shalimar the Clown" about, is a place in which tolerant, mild, almost mystical Islam is under extraordinary pressure from radical, intolerant, brutal Islam. So I think the battle inside the Muslim world is almost more important than any battle between the Muslim world and the West.

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