Chaim Yitzchak


On the Other Hand
Photo Gallery
The Whisky Trail
Contact us

On the Other Hand

Chaim Bermant

Flaming Rage (3 February 1989)

There are many lessons to be learned from the Islamic campaign against Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, the first of which is that if you set out to ban a book, make sure you succeed , otherwise you will only promote it.

Britain’s attempts to prevent the publication of Spycatcher made the boo k an international bestseller, and the Islamic campaign is doing the same for Rushdie. I half wish someone would burn one of my books in public. (A Hendon Rabbi once threatened to do so, but never got round to it. I should have sent him a box of matches.)

A Government has the right to expect confidentiality from its servants and I therefore had every sympathy with the campaign against Spycatcher.

I have none however, for the campaign against Rushdie, not merely because he happens to be a particularly gifted author, but because every man has the right to look God in the teeth and to question the fundamentals of his faith; and if the fulminations of the book burners are anything to go by, Mr Rushdie’s questions are well founded.

I recently found myself in conversation on the issue with cultured Muslim, who said I should not judge his faith by the actions of the Mullah, and that Islam was basically broad-minded and tolerant.

I appreciated the point he was trying to make, because I have frequently argued that one should not judge Judaism by the actions of utterances of the Rabbi; but in the last resort, Islam is as Islam does (the same, of course, is true of Judaism).

Whatever admiration one may have for Islamic culture, or the work of this or that Muslim poet or thinker, the fact remains that there is hardly a single democratic country in the Muslim world. One must inevitably judge Islam not by the urbanities of its apologists, but the Khomeinis and Gaddafis, the Assads and the Sadddams, and the book burners of Bradford.

(I will no doubt be reminded that Pakistan recently elected Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister in a free and democratic vote, but let us see how long she remains in power, and while in power, how long she remains democratic).

Dr Hesham El Essawy, director of the Islamic Society for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance in the UK [sic], is unhappy about  the book-burning episode if only because  “it has awakened the sleeping demons of racialism in so many”. This may be true, but it has also evoked painful memories of what book-burning led to in Nazi Germany.

The actual book burning may have been the work of a few hotheads, but no responsible Muslim leader has denounced it, or the threats against Rushdie and his publishers, and the whole Muslim world seems to have combined in the effort to have the book banned.

The may be an indelicate point for someone to make who is himself an immigrant, but it has to be made: the Muslims are abusing the very freedom which have led them to seek, and obtain,  a home in Britain. They are not only making things difficult for themselves; they are making things impossible for prospective immigrants, especially from the Muslim world.

Britain may not be a particularly bookis h society, but it is a particularly fair minded one, and it is intolerant of attempts to spread intolerance and interfere with free speech; and if the anti-Rushdie campaign has led to a backlash of anti-Muslim feeling – which it has – the Muslims have only themselves to blame.

But wait, who am I to talk? What of the Jewish campaign against Jim Allen’s “Perdition”? Jews, to be sure did not burn Allen’s play in public, or even in private, but they did join in an effort to have it banned – and what’s more, they succeeded. The two cases, however are not the same.

Allen’s work was not a novel, but purported to be a reconstruction of recent events which touched on the personal experience of countless people still living, and which was a blatant piece of anti-Zionist propaganda.

It was,  moreover, to have been staged by the Royal Court Theatre, which, unlike Penguin (Rushdie’s publishers), is heavily dependent on public funds . And the play itself was trash.

Nevertheless, it is not a crime to write bad plays, or even to stage them, and, as I said at the time, it was not worthy of the wrath it provoked.

Home | Bermant Family | Biography | Tributes | Books | Contact us | Danny | Links | News | On the Other Hand | Photo Gallery | Plays | Quotations | Whisky Trail

If you have any questions, please contact our Webmaster or phone (+44 20 8455 4746).
© 2001 Danny Bermant. All rights reserved.

Home Page Judy Bermant Aliza Bermant The Bermant Family Evie Bermant Azi Bermant Danny Bermant Bermant news