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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 16:23 GMT
Rushdie attacks 'paranoid Islam'
Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie has enraged Muslims in the past
Novelist Salman Rushdie has entered the debate over the war in Afghanistan by saying world leaders are wrong to insist that terrorism and the fight against it were not about Islam.

He pointed to worldwide Muslim demonstrations in support of Osama Bin Laden as evidence of a "jumbled, half-examined" version of Islam among some believers.

The author of the controversial Satanic Verses argued Islam was being hijacked by political fanatics and needed to have its own process of reformation.


If this isn't about Islam why the worldwide Muslim demonstrations in support of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda?

Salman Rushdie
And the London-based writer said "paranoid Islam" was the quickest growing form of the religion and needed to be opposed in the Muslim world and the West.

Mr Rushdie has spent years with the threat of death hanging over him following a "fatwa" by the now deceased Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeni for his novel.

The late revolutionary leader's 1989 religious decree declared Muslims had a duty to kill Mr Rushdie for his alleged blasphemy.

Writing in the New York Times, Mr Rushdie said western leaders were guilty of repeating a "mantra" that "this war isn't about Islam".

Self-incriminating statements

"The trouble with this necessary disclaimer is that it isn't true," he wrote.

"If this isn't about Islam why the worldwide Muslim demonstrations in support of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda?"


It would be absurd to deny that this self-exculpatory, paranoiac Islam is an ideology with widespread appeal

Salman Rushdie
Mr Rushdie said that for many "believing" Muslim men, Islam was a "jumbled, half-examined" cluster of customs and prejudices.

Radical movements

The writer maintained these included a loathing of modern society and a fear of the West's way of life taking over.

"Highly-motivated organisations of Muslim men have been engaged over the last 30 years or so in growing radical political movements out of this mulch of belief," he said.

"This paranoid Islam, which blames outsider, 'infidels', for all the ills of Muslim societies and whose proposed remedy is the closing of those societies to the rival project of modernity is presently the fastest growing version of Islam in the world.


If terrorism is to be defeated, the world of Islam must take on board the secularist-humanist principles on which the modern is based

Salman Rushdie
"It would be absurd to deny that this self-exculpatory, paranoiac Islam is an ideology with widespread appeal."

Mr Rushdie said many Muslims were beginning to question this version of Islam after 11 September and whether the Islamic world, not America and the West, is largely responsible for its own problems.

But he said the movement was half-hearted and needed the active encouragement of West.

Another Islam

"I'm reminded of the way non-communist socialists used to distance themselves from the tyrannical socialism of the Soviets; nevertheless, the first stirrings of this counter-project are of great significance," he said.

"If Islam is to be reconciled with modernity, these voices must be encouraged until they swell into a roar.

"Many of them speak of another Islam, their personal, private faith.

"If terrorism is to be defeated, the world of Islam must take on board the secularist-humanist principles on which the modern is based, and without which Muslim countries' freedom will remain a distant dream."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
On the Today progarmme:
Sher Khan, organiser of Islam Awareness Week and Melanie Philips, Sunday Times columnist
See also:

08 May 00 | Middle East
A new Salman Rushdie?
14 Apr 00 | South Asia
Rushdie delight at India visit
13 Feb 00 | Middle East
Rushdie death sentence reaffirmed
29 Dec 99 | Media reports
Full text: Kidneys for Rushdie's head
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