We must answer Rushdie’s call to ‘be braver’. The only alternative is abandoning our free speech (Telegraph blog)
Last night, I was having a drink in one of the bars at the Palace of Westminster with a Tory MP. I mentioned that I’d written a couple of blog posts recently about the Muslim world, including one about the film riots and another about anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt. Neither of these had been particularly inflammatory.
“You’d better be careful,” said my companion, from his position at the heart of British power. “You don’t want to get on the wrong side of Muslim fanatics.”
Yesterday, Salman Rushdie – who has had his fatwa reinstated by an Iranian Ayatollah, with an increased bounty of $3.3 million – said that a “climate of fear” would make it impossible for the Satanic Verses to be published now. In an interview with the BBC’s Will Gompertz, he said that the opponents of free speech used a “medieval vocabulary” of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy, which has had a cumulative cultural effect. This burgeoning Islamic intolerance, he argued, forms a “straight line” from his 1989 fatwa to the 9/11 attacks. This represents a cycle of oppression in which aggressive Islamist rhetoric sparks popular violence, which in turn gives future threats teeth.
There can be no doubt that the message of intimidation has been amplified since the late eighties, with protests and attacks sparked by countless books, cartoons and films. My conversation with the MP highlighted just how successful this concerted campaign by Islamic radicals has become in suppressing free speech in Britain. The defining characteristic of terrorism is that a little bit of terror goes a long way; blow up one bus, and all passengers will worry about their safety. These days, the “climate of fear” is so pervasive that even in the mother of all parliaments, the mere mention of an article related to Islam makes MPs suck their teeth and advise you to watch your back. Continue reading on the Telegraph website