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Customer Review

107 of 120 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yaar, what happens when you win?, October 10, 2007
This review is from: The Satanic Verses: A Novel (Bestselling Backlist) (Paperback)
I am of the belief that Ruhullah Khomeini made his infamous fatwa against Rushdie (and this novel) based on one line in the book: "when the aga khan drinks wine, it turns to water in his mouth." This is a direct mocking of Ruhullah Khomeini and probably was the real reason for the fatwa. Khomeini fiercely wanted to be the grand marja' of every shia; he worked to gain supreme power in the form of a theocratic revolutionary. I believe Rushdie's comment was probably more stinging to his assumed authority than anything else in the novel. Picking on Islam would have united people under Khomeini (uniting against a common enemy), but attacking Khomeini would usurp his power and divide his support base.

This is not to say that the book does not have plenty of subtle and intertwined criticisms and twists on the Islamic faith. To understand these moments in the book the reader does need a fairly large knowledge of Islam. There aren't direct and pointed attacks, they are more so the settings of scenes, the ruminations of characters (particularly Salman the Persian). Many of these episodes which display twists on early Islamic history are presented as in a dream by a crazed Indian actor, Gibreel Farishta. So Rushdie never goes so far as to suggest that any of these sequences is even possibly true.

But to balance the above, are moments where faith and willing suspension of disbelief courageously overcome and succeed. Magical experiences which suggest that those who mock religion are actually the fools.

Rushdie's writing style can be a bit difficult, but once you get used to it, its very melodic and rich. The reader gets the feeling that Rushdie never rushes (!) his prose; there is never a hurried sense to his narrative. Aside from religious content, sex and violence are topics that are, if not explicitly detailed out, present continually through the book. The book isn't for easily disturbed readers.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 20, 2010 9:13:39 PM PST
J. Baer says:
Rushdie and religion - two forms of fiction. Why does Islam deserve any favor over others? Oh right, because they oppress anyone trying to question it. Mocking it is merely subjective and Khomeini's power was only given to him from the lemmings that followed him. It's unfortunate humans can be so small minded to allow a novel to be their source of ridicule.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2013 10:26:00 PM PST
Kvadriga says:
Good point.

Posted on Feb 26, 2014 3:31:55 PM PST
D. Walker says:
Interesting idea; though it should be remembered that Khomeini never read a word of Rushdie's book. According to Rushdie himself, the fatwa was issued in response to reports that six Muslims had been killed while attacking the American Cultural Center in Islamabad during an anti-Rushdie riot. (It's doubtful that the rioters had read the book either, since it was not generally available in that part of the world and had not yet been translated into Urdu or Farsi). Rushdie has also pointed out that many passages of his book are extremely critical of Khomeini and of the way he prosecuted the war with Iraq (such as using thousands of children to sweep minefields). But (as Rushdie sees it) the fatwa was less an expression of personal animus than a cruel attempt of a dying old man to grab the headlines one last time.

Posted on Jan 2, 2015 6:08:05 PM PST
G. Mathe says:
It is clear as day to me that the fatwa was issued because of personal reasons. Many other public figures had mocked Islam and its so-called prophet before, but Rushdie took a swing at Khomeini, one of the most egotistical people the world has ever seen. I'm just glad he died and never saw his fatwa succeed in killing a great man. Sadly, it did cost several others their lives.
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