Christopher Hitchens from “Assassins of the Mind”

“Assassins of the Mind” is the name of Christopher Hitchens’ article in the February 2009 issue of Vanity Fair.  You should read the entire article, but some thoughts to ponder:

“On Valentine’s Day, 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran gave [Salman Rushdie’s] book The Satanic Verses the single worst review any novelist has ever had, calling in frenzied tones for his death and also for the killing of all those ‘involved in its publication’. This was the first time that most people outside the Muslim world had heard the word fatwa, or religious edict……Just to re-state the situation before I go any farther:  two decades ago the theocratic head of a foreign state offered a large sum of money, in his own name, in public, to suborn the murder of a writer of fiction who was not himself Iranian.  In the event that some would-be assassin died in the attempt and failed to pick up the dough, an immediate passage to paradise was assured…..I thought then, and I think now, that this was not just a warning of what was to come.  It was the warning.  The civil war in the Moslem world, between those who believed in jihad and Shari’a and those who did not, was coming to our streets and cities.  Within a short time, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses, was stabbed to death on the campus where he taught literature, and the Italian translator Ettore Capirolo was knifed in his apartment in Milan.  William Nygaard, the novel’s Norwegian publisher, was shot three times in the back and left for dead outside his Oslo home.  Several very serious bids, often backed by Iranian embassies, were made on the life of Salman himself….

“The Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, descendant of the painter, shot down and then ritually butchered on an Amsterdam street after making a short film about the mistreatment of Muslim women in Holland.  His colleague Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an elected member of the Dutch parliament, forced into hiding and ultimately into exile by incessant threats of death.  Another small (and unusually open and multicultural) European democracy, that of Denmark, its embassies burned and its exports boycotted and its citizens threatened, because of a few cartoons of the prophet Mohammad published in a morning newspaper in Copenhagen.  Daniel Pearl, of The Wall Street Journal, taunted on video for being a Jew and then foully beheaded.  Riots and burnings all across the Muslim world, some of the clearly incited by the authorities, in response to some ill-judged words about Islam from the Pope.

“These are some of the things that have happened and have become depressingly taken for granted, since the fatwa of the ayatollah.  We live now in a climate where every publisher and editor and politician has to weigh in advance the possibility of violent Muslim reprisal.”

Just a reminder…it is more than Israel/Palestine.  It is more than Gaza.


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