As far as religious tolerance goes, none stands out more prominently than the woes of an eminent writer, Salman Rushdie.
An exemplary writer of Indian origin ( 14 books, numerous awards, including the Booker's Prize for his work, " Midnight's Children"), he is now famous (or notorious, depending on whose side you are on) for authoring the book, "Satanic Verses" in 1988, which was deemed sacrilegious and blasphemous by the rigid Islamic world.
Controversy Behind "Satanic Verses"
The controversy that incurred Islamic wrath, it seems, centres on a little-known fact in the Islamic religion:Three pagan goddesses, which was written, according to an Arab historican, Ibn Ishaq (Approx. A.D 700), by Muhammad and incorporated with the Islamic religion. Muhammad himself later revoked the goddesses, claiming he was under the influence of the Devil (When shit happens, always blame the Devil. Its a great coup out).
As Islam is a "religion of peace", Muslims all over the world reacted in the only way they knew: General mayhem and rioting. All over the world, there were protests against Rushdie, and the general reaction was that Rushdie deserved to have his throat slit for outrageous Muslim sentiments.
And lo and behold: India, Rushdie's homeland, became the first to ban the book. Iran's Ayatollah at that time, Khomeini, was so incensed with Rushdies' blasphemous book, that he issued a fatwa (death edict) and a bounty for his life, a charge that still hangs about him like an ignominous plague.
At about the same time, the book's Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, was stabbed to death in his university. Others, such as Italian translator Ettore Capriolo and publisher William Nygaard, survived assassination attempts.
Rushdie And His Knighthood: A Slight Against Islam?
Almost 20 years on, the fatwa against Rushdie still stands: He still requires maximum security, with his whereabouts known only to a few handful.
As details of Rushdie's impending knighthood granted by the British monarchy emerges, Muslims all over the world are again raving and cursing this literary talent:
1. 2000 people rioted in several cities in Pakistan, calling for Rushdie to be drawn, quartered, and killed in cold blood.
2. Khatami, a Islamic cleric, reminded the secular press that the death sentence still stands :"Awarding him means confronting 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. In Islamic Iran, the revolutionary fatwa ... is still alive and cannot be changed."
Mufti Mohammad Bashir-ud-din, head of Kashmir's Islamic court, agrees that Salman was "liable to be killed for rendering the gravest injury to the sentiments of the Muslims across the world."
Apparently, freedom of speech in the Muslim world doesn't exist. Crude violence, not tolerance, runs amok in the fundamentalist Islamic world.
Islamic Intolerance: A Culture of Murder and & Violence
According to some theists, atheism has reached a new level of "militancy". With the emergence of more vocal atheists (Or anti-theist, in Christopher Hitchen's case) such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the rise of atheism towards a more public consciousness has indeed provide cannon folder for such an accusation.Yet, there is nothing within this atheistic revolution that rivals Islamic intolerance. From brutally executed Fatwas to the murderous ravings of deranged clerics in turbans, the idea that "Islam is a religion of peace" is so eschewed in the face of Islamic intolerance towards just about everything they don't see fit is just about as logical as waxing lyrical about the Great White Shark tearing a doomed seal into itsy bitsy pieces.
It is not my intention to deride Muslims (I have Muslim friends who are just about as rational as the common masses), but surely religion, as depicted by Islam, is not as peaceful as some moderates claim.
It would be interesting to see if the British monarchy would cave in to these barbaric demands. As of writing, Salman's name is still on the honours roll.It is time for the western world to stop kowtowing to these Islamic fundies and send a strong message to the global community: Religious fundamentalists must adhere to the basics of free speech and secular humanism.