Britain I can only hope it will not be lost by default. And there is something in our gregarious makeup which makes us want to conform. For there can be no doubt at all that both Rushdie himself and his most energetic supporters are sincere in their belief that they represent the forces of freedom and enlightenment and that they are right to attack cruel and repressive forms of faith. This new incident reminds us, if we need to be reminded, that the manner in which we resolve or fail to resolve the issue of The Satanic Verses does have implications for a whole range of cases which have yet to arise. Perhaps most tragically of all The Satanic Verses has had almost precisely the opposite effect on Islamic fundamentalists and on the worldwide Muslim community from that which was apparently intended by its author. Sean OFaolain, in his autobiography, records an inability to reconcile mans free will with Gods total knowledge which was resolvedin a sudden magical or miraculous flash of insightone day before a taxi ride in Manhattan. We take leave of him as he dreams of new and more elaborate patterns of aggression. But the price paid for this sort of intellectual pacification is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind. Dummett, however, was hit just as hard by the left. So long as the Bibles authority remained paramount in Christian Europe, and so long as literalist or fundamentalist interpretations of it prevailed, any attempt to take this right away would have been unthinkable.
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For the continued prestige of the novel in the West is itself a source of cultural humiliation for countless thousands of Muslims both in this country and elsewhere. This distortion of Dummetts argument was characteristic of the technique of the profile-writer, who seemed intent on dragging Dummetts reputation through a mire of malice and misrepresentation in an attempt to destroy. One of the great advantages of the current American interpretation of First Amendment rights is that, while sustaining the mirage of freedom by holding out to American citizens all manner of formal liberties, it simultaneously helps to ensure that, at a more informal level, American. For that matter, is man capable of it? For rhetoric such as that used by Christopher Hitchens, by the Sunday Telegraph, or by Rushdie himself in his In Good Faith, is not, in any constructive sense of the word critical. When the element of assent and of trust is missing then sex, instead of being the medium for psychological liberation, can very rapidly become an authoritarian weapon which is used to intimidate, to subjugate, and to bully. For it is only by creating and publishing books which are, if anything, even more offensive to Muslims than The Satanic Verses, that we can ensure that the frontiers of Western freedom have not already been shifted to the detriment of our absolute right. Ironically, however, in the very midst of a festival held in order to defy the powers of the censor, Greer found herself applauding the suppression of a work of art. For Judaism, Christianity, and indeed Marxism, are all, like Islam, apocalyptic and imperialistic faiths. It takes money from us for purposes we do not seem to sanction; it treats us as abstract statistics; it controls an army; it supports a police force whose function does not always appear to be protective. All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man the immutable truth and beneficence of God.