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23 people found this helpful
on 20 August 2011
"The Satanic Verses" is a novel which has been overshadowed by its history. Published in late September of 1988, it was on February 14th in 1989 that a fatwa was issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini against the author Salman Rushdie (Happy Valentine's Day, Salman). The claim was that the book was very insulting to Muslims, and the controversy itself caused many who had never read the book to issue strong opinions about it. It also had the effect of getting many to buy it that otherwise would not have, and stop people from buying and reading it who otherwise might have. I'm sad to admit that I fall into the latter category, having allowed the controversy to steer me away not only from "The Satanic Verses", but from all of Salman Rushdie's works. The loss has been mine.
A story dealing with immigration into a different culture, and the loss of faith, the sections which caused the controversy are the dream sequences of a man who believes he is an angel, and even in the sequence which most applies to the prophet then the names are altered, though clearly Mahound is intended to be a representation of the prophet Muhammad, it is a representation which takes place in the dream of a delusional character. So ultimately, the controversy is about a piece of fiction which includes dreams from an unbalanced mind, and that is pretty much all that needs to be said regarding the supposed blasphemy, and of course free speech still allows one to write what one will, so even if it were blasphemy the violent response to it has been nothing short of obscene.
I found "The Satanic Verses" a difficult read as I struggled with some of his terms, and the narrative structure. It is a very complex storyline, and though I suspect I only picked up on a small part of the totality of what Rushdie included, it was well worth the effort, and this is a book which I will be re-reading in a few years to see what I missed the first time through. I also will be correcting my mistake of not reading any of Rushdie's other works as I see no reason to deprive myself of such great works simply because others found offense.
The book is comic, with biting commentary not only on religion, but on politics and the secular and capitalistic west. The story is about two Indian actors that are miraculously saved after their plane is blown up by terrorists. One (Gibreel) comes to believe he is an angel), and the other (Saladin) transforms into a devil. The title itself does refer to a controversy early story from the early days of Islam. The story is about the devil tricking Muhammad into indicating that the worship of three pagan goddesses was allowed, but later learning from Gabriel that the devil had tricked him with a false recitation, i.e. a Satanic Verse.