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TVMucho Show of the week

The Satanic Verses: 30 Years On

Mon, February 25th, 2019

Wednesday 9pm – 10pm, BBC2

Seldom has a ‘fatwa’ (death sentence) been issued against such a famous person, let alone one that came from Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. Yet on Valentine’s Day 1989 that is exactly what happened to Salman Rushdie. The novel written by Rushdie had deeply offended Muslims, containing risqué pictures of the prophet Mohammed had devastated the Islamic faith – especially as the offence had come from one of their own. His usual eloquent and creative writing was now overlooked for the faux pas in writing such blasphemy. The writer apologised, but to no avail, he had to move several times, missed his son growing up, bookstores were firebombed and publishers of the novel murdered.

His novel divided the world. It was the first time anti Western Islamic rhetoric was seen. Propagated by Shia Muslim Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia. There are direct links from the reaction of Rushdie’s novel to extremism, the Taliban, Wahhabism and hardline Islam. It was commonplace in 1989 for schoolchildren to play “How would you kill Rushdie” in the playground.

You may think that after 30 years the nation will have forgotten about the book, but the evidence suggests perhaps not.

Mobeen Azhar looks back at the conflict and his excellent review prompts shocking scenes and painful memories for some. Visiting Bradford he speaks with passers by to see if they remember the book and the impact it had on them and the community. One man destroys the hardback copy Mobeen is carrying, screaming insults at him as he does so. Another man questions what Mobeen is doing and tells him he has no right asking the questions he is. The whole event visibly shakes Mobeen up and shows how one book set off a reaction which we still live with today – the radicalisation of both young Muslims and British nationalists.

Mobeen also speaks with a wide variety of people who were affected by the book, including Muslims who organised protests against it, Nationalists who used it as a recruiting tool and a writer who questioned the books right to free speech, despite her own beliefs.

This is an excellent documentary which shows how one novel changed the course of history across religious and nationalist lines and still stirs emotion, anger and hate to this day.


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