Sunday, 11 January 2009

It was twenty years ago today . . .

Whilst reading this article by Andrew Anthony explaining how the Salman Rushdie affair helped create the current British Muslim identity (as opposed to Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Egyptian, Persian and so on), I was struck by this passage:

Muslims in all their myriad variety and differences have morphed, or been corralled, into a unitary socio-economic-cultural block. To take vocal exception to one aspect of Islam or one particular leader or sect is, almost by definition, to be an opponent of all Muslims. . . [Inayat Bunglawala, spokesperson for the Jamaat-i-Islami-influenced Muslim Council of Britain] was, in his own words, "elated" when Khomeini delivered the fatwa. "It was a very welcome reminder that British Muslims did not have to regard themselves just as a small, vulnerable minority; they were part of a truly global and powerful movement." . . . "It was a seminal moment in British Muslim history," he told me. "It brought Muslims together. Before that they had been identified as ethnic communities but The Satanic Verses brought them together and helped develop a British Muslim identity, which I'm sure infuriates Salman Rushdie."

The desire to be part of a 'powerful movement' rather than a small minority amongst millions is hardly limited to British Islamists, but the way in which an over-reaction to an 'insult' can forge a new identity, even when the leaders of that movement later recognise that the response was an over-reaction, is surprising.

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