Skip to comments.I'm disgusted ministers did nothing as Sikhs forced play's closure, says Rushdie
Posted on 12/26/2004 3:26:11 PM PST by Pikamax
I'm disgusted ministers did nothing as Sikhs forced play's closure, says Rushdie By Rajeev Syal (Filed: 26/12/2004)
Salman Rushdie, the author given a death sentence by Muslim clerics for writing the novel The Satanic Verses, has expressed outrage at the Government's refusal to criticise last week's violent protests by Sikhs that led to the closure of a play in Birmingham.
The author told The Telegraph that ministers should have stepped in to prevent the closure of Behzti, which had been staged at Birmingham's Repertory Theatre, and accused them of helping to endanger Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, the play's author.
Salman Rushdie: 'It has been horrifying to see the response' Mr Rushdie, 57, speaking at his London home, said: "It has been horrifying to see the response. It is pretty terrible to hear government ministers expressing approval of the ban and failing to condemn the violence, when they should be supporting freedom of expression."
His outburst was sparked by the refusal of Fiona Mactaggart, the home office minister, to offer support for either the theatre or the author following protests by a violent mob last weekend. Sikh groups organised the demonstrations because part of the play, which involves scenes of rape and murder, takes place in a temple, or gudwara.
"The minister is sending entirely the wrong message," Mr Rushdie said. "It should be quite clear that, in this country, it is the liberty of any artist to express their view of their own society and their own community. Frankly, bookshops and theatres are full of things that would upset an interest group."
Mr Rushdie, 57, was sentenced to death by Iranian clerics in 1989 after he portrayed Mohammed, the Islamic prophet, as a man with sexual urges in The Satanic Verses. He went into hiding and was given protection by Special Branch. The fatwa was finally lifted in 1998.
Mr Rushdie said that he had been offered much more offical support than Ms Bhatti, who has been forced to leave her London home.
"In 1989, when The Satanic Verses was attacked, all political parties were united in their condemnation of the violence and their support for the principle for freedom of expression. It seems that the Blair government's capacity to disappoint knows no bounds," he said.
Behzti, meaning "Dishonour" in Punjabi, has been described as a "black comedy" and tackles difficult subjects such as rape and murder within a Sikh community. It was closed following a night of rioting last Saturday outside the theatre.
Ms Mactaggart, whose constituency of Slough has a large Sikh population, refused to condemn the mob and told Radio Four's Today programme on Tuesday that the play would be helped by the closure.
"I think that when people are moved by theatre to protest, in a way that is a sign of the free speech which is so much part of the British tradition. I think that it is a great thing that people care enough about a performance to protest," she said.
Mr Rushdie said that Ms Mactaggart had failed to grasp the arguments involved, and should be defending the rights of artists to express themselves. "If being upset is the only requirement to banning something, there will be nothing on in the theatres," he warned. "Should we ban Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice for being anti-Semitic? Where do you stop?"
Mr Rushdie, who was born in India, said that the Sikh protestors had adopted the violent tactics used by Hindu nationalists on the sub-Continent. "This seems to be a trend that has come from India, where extremists have attacked a number of artistic and cultural events, with very little control. Works by some of India's most revered artists have been attacked by Shiv Sena [an extremist Hindu grouping], and now the Sikh community here are travelling down a similar path," he said.
The author, who won the Booker prize for his first novel, Midnight's Children, said that the content of Behzti poses some awkward questions about sexual abuse which some Sikh elders may have found difficult to accept.
"The question it raises is whether such things are actually happening within the Sikh community. If it is true that things are going on in gudwaras that should be exposed, then this episode needs to be examined in a new light," he said.
Ms Bhatti, 35, who is a Sikh, was said last night to be in hiding after receiving a series of death threats. Braham Murray, the artistic director at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, said: "She is devastated that this has happened. Not surprisingly, she wonders if she can continue writing. It is shocking and sad for the nation that mob violence has curbed free speech."
F anybody who says that simple freedom of speech equates to incitement to riot.
...or that a statement critical of a racial or religious minority's actions is an unacceptable "hateful" act against that minority.
Salmon himself might find that he's on a plane heading home sooner than he expected!
Mr. Ryshdie has fallen prey to the Indian regime's stratedy of tryng to split Sikhs, Muslims, and other victims of its oppression. This divide and rule strategy has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths of minorities and tens o thousands of political prisoners.
But from Rushdie, that doesn't surprise me.
Why is anyone surprised? The law is always trying to supress conservative voices which bear the truth.
Artists who produce offensive work must pay the price for their offensiveness.
Other people do that with the expectation that they can make some money from the artist's hard work.
The correct target for your anger is the exhibitor!
Did you know those ceremonial swords cut? Deep, too!
Muslim coubut it's a well-known tactic of the Indian government as well.
For example, a couple of years ago, Indian troops were caught red-handed trying to burn down a Gurdwara (that's a Sikh place of worship) and some Sikh houses in a village in Kashmir, apparently hoping that the local Sikhs would blame the local Muslims. Instead, what happened was that the Sikh and Muslim residents worked together to stop the troops from doing this, captured them and their vehicle, and forced their colleagues to come out and reclaim it.
India to this day uses Sikh troops in Kashmir (and anywhere but Punjab), Muslim troops in Nagaland and other places, and various ethnic and religious groups that they are suppressing to go and suppress other groups. Unfortunately for India, the minorities are bbecoming increasingly aware of this and it's helping to build a coalition among the Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and others.
It was in the newspapers over there at the time.
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