Qadri Ismail a Bit of This and a Bit of That Rushdie's Newness

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Qadri Ismail a Bit of This and a Bit of That Rushdie's Newness
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  A Bit of This and a Bit of That: Rushdie's NewnessAuthor(s): Qadri IsmailSource: Social Text, No. 29 (1991), pp. 117-124Published by: Duke University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/466302 . Accessed: 29/01/2014 07:54 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.  .  Duke University Press  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Social Text. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 134.76.128.130 on Wed, 29 Jan 2014 07:54:43 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  A Bit of This nd a Bit of That: Rushdie's Newness QADRI ISMAIL I take criticism o seriously s to believe that, ven in the very midst of a battle n which one is unmistakably n one side against another, there hould be criticism, ecause there must be critical onsciousness if there re to be issues, problems,values, ven lives to be fought or. Edward W. Said, The World, he Text nd the Critic I We got drunk, Abdullah and I. Abdullah, a political activist from ack home, started ife as a nation- alist; for a long time a Marxist, he now described himself s a radical humanist. We were open-mouthed ll night, words coming out, booze going in. But I could have got high on the chitchat lone. The talk came around, via the recent pate of extremist ationalisms n south Asia, to The Satanic Verses. The fatwa was more than a year old, Rushdie's recantation till to come. What do you think bout the book? he asked. I like it very much. Machang, t makes me feel free, more free No one from ur part of the world has done this up to now. Shook a fist back at the mullahs. Yes I know. had the same feeling... Did you write omething? No. Why not? I was out of the country t the time. What a convenient xcuse Abdullah grimaced, hen ooked past me, flourished he scotchbottle. If we don't, yaar, the white neo-orientalists will continue to use him and our fundamentalist rothers will keep him quiet. We must boost him, toast him. His kind of guts, say, who has? He stood up. Here's to Salman Rushdie, he proclaimed. May he live a hundred years Then turned. And you, you useless motherfucker, rite So, I sat down and thought omething. Question one: Whatall s the book about? 117 This content downloaded from 134.76.128.130 on Wed, 29 Jan 2014 07:54:43 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  118 Rushdie's ewness It is about losing the ground eneath your feet: the place of your birth and the faith f your prophet. Mostly, the former.) About the mpact f such migration: he oss of dentity nd certainties, and the search for replacements. t is about the racism of white Britons: towards, mostly, Muslim south Asians. About how - and this s raised, rather than explored if cultures leak into one another, nstead of imposing one upon the other s they now do, new and hopefully better cultures, better nd more tolerable ways of life, could come into being. It is an act of faith, plea for hybridity, profoundly ecular work. And it is about the oss of faith; pecifically, slam. To that xtent t is a critique of faith. And of Islam. But the thrust f the text s not anti-Islam. The straightjacket ariant dominant n some parts of the Muslim world today, fundamentalism, s what bothers Rushdie. Only two scenes in the book deal with ontempo- rary slam - the description f the exiled imam nd of the ndian mystic who took her followers nto the sea- and they ook at despotic uses of it. The sequences in the book that Muslims ustifiably find offensive where Muhammad s called Mahound, where Mahound and god are com- pared to businessmen, where Salman the scribe tampers with the holy revelation, where Islam is described as having damn rules for every- thing, he use of the satanic verses, most of all where whores ake on the names of Muhammad's wives - should be understood s the why of someone who is unable to believe. Question two: Who all is the book for? Did Rushdie write for he West, s many f his critics from he Muslim world would have it? Only for Western udience? Did he not want the book read elsewhere? Did his themes never reverberate positively in other ocieties? Yes they did. Hear this cry of an unknown akistani, nonymous etter writer o the London Observer at the height f the controversy. Salman Rushdie speaks for me in The Satanic Verses, nd mine s a voice that has not yet found expression n newspaper olumns. t is the voice of those who are born Muslims but wish to recant in adulthood, yet are not permitted o do so on pain of death. I know this man, says Abdullah. You do? Ya. Not the name, the character. have known him all my ife. The one who must be anonymous ontinued. So we hold our tongues, those of us who doubt. Call it cowardice or hypocrisy, act or appease- ment, we bury ur heads in the sand... Then along comes Rushdie and speaks for us. Tells the world that we exist - that we are not simply mere fabrication f some Jewish onspir- acy. He ends our isolation. This content downloaded from 134.76.128.130 on Wed, 29 Jan 2014 07:54:43 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  Qadri smail 119 This wretched erson s a westernized outh Asian. The subcontinent, populated y more han billion, as a substantial inority f people ike him. Like me. Call us what you will secularists, nti-fundamentalists, humanists. f for no one else, Salman Rushdie t least poke for s. And we have been he most ilent or he past wo years. f we continue thus we may ose the rgument, f not he battle, y default. Yes Yes Yes interjects bdullah he unmerciful. It is hightime you explained ourself. our ilence has a price And question hree: What o say about he fusspots who now eem to have won)? Simply his. understand heir rief, ut hey re dangerous. II One year fter homeini's atwah, alman efended nd described he book, reacted o the ontroversy hus: Those who ppose he novel most vociferously oday re of the opinion hat ntermingling ith different culture will inevitably eaken nd ruin heir wn. am of the opposite opinion. he Satanic Verses elebrates ybridity, mpurity, ntermingling, the transformation hat omes of new and unexpected ombinations f human beings, cultures, deas, politics, movies, ongs. It rejoices in mongrelisation nd fears he absolutism f the Pure. Melange, hotch- potch, a bit of this and a bit of that s how newness enters he world. The strength f his argument, ts newness, ies in his refusal o excuse the yatullahs f this arth, o make distinctions etween he ntolerance of the slamic undamentalist nd that f the white acist. n his nsistence that igotry s bigotry, nd must e so identified, hether t comes from the oppressor, r from he oppressed. nfashionable, erhaps. Which is why many rom he eft haven't efended im. But necessary. ecause not to do so would be to valorize oppressed roups, resent hem s perfect. Whereas he task s to critically crutinize he oppressed oo, perhaps ven more arefully. Salman Rushdie s part of a new and different eneration f ex- colonised. The previous eneration its mmediate ontradiction eing with he olonial power defined tself n opposition o ts former as- ters. ts politics, ts generational ission n Franz Fanon's ense, was to rediscover ollective elf-respect. hat has been more r ess done. We have, his nascent eneration, ore r ess come to terms ith ur past, have excavated nd are excavating t from he dungeons f the orientalist-colonizers. ow, we demand present, equire tates and socio-political systems n which we can fulfill ourselves. And are not content with aying the whole blame on imperialism nd its legacy, an unfair world system. We have a complex awareness of our plight. Realize the contribution of colonialism to our present dilemmas which have been worsened by This content downloaded from 134.76.128.130 on Wed, 29 Jan 2014 07:54:43 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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