Saturday, May 20, 2006

On Fiction and Religion: A Comparison of Orthodoxies

In the late 80's when Satanic Verses was published, there was a furor somewhat akin to what we are now hearing about the Da Vinci Code. Many orthodox Muslims expressed the same sort of outrage expressed by many orthodox Christians today. And when one compares the two books, there are similarities. Satanic Verses questions some of Islam's most basic beliefs about Muhammed, its most important figure other than Allah. Likewise, DaVinci questions Christianity's most cherished beliefs about Christ, who it believes was the Son of God, divine yet also human but without sin.

But there was a distinct difference to the reactions of the respective orthodox leaders as well. Then, the outrage caused Muslim leaders to call not just for the supression of the offending book, but for the death of its author Salmon Rushdie as well. To date, although the Vatican and many conservative Protestant leaders have vehemently criticized Da Vinci, Dan Brown's life has not been threatened by even the most outraged Christian leadership.

Doesn't this tell us something relevant to today's struggles with the Islamic Jihadists and their supporters? Doesn't it also say something about Christians?


terrye said...

I had the same thought. In fact it was the same when Gibson came out with his movie about the Passion. There may have been Jews who were not happy about the movie, but no one threatened to kill Mel Gibson.

Yes, it says a lot about the religions and the believers.

truepeers said...

I think, in today's climate, someone could make a mint doing a popularized version of Satanic Verses or a Muslim version of Da Vinci. But if anyone has done it, I haven't heard about it, and I doubt it is out there. Would you risk your life to make a fortune making conspiratorial fun of the life of Mohammed? Still, if anyone can show me a way to do it and remain safe and remunerated, maybe I will have a go...

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it also say something about Christians?

It may say something about 21st c. Christians. In times past, heretical expression wasn't always tolerated, but that's the point, isn't it? Islamists want to smite modernity as much as heresy. They have fervor, we have history.

I bought Satanic Verses when it first came out. The clerk at the store handed me the copy wrapped in brown paper from under the front counter and advised me to keep it in the bag until safely home! Two months later, I'd forgotten the book was shelved in full view of dinner guests until I looked to see what they were staring at. The Omani general and his wife never said a word about it, but you could still sense the tension of tolerance and orthodoxy between our worlds and also within theirs.

At any rate, mine was the blaspheme as a hostess, I suppose. It's not enough to not serve pork and hide the nudes. But where does one draw the line in not giving offense, and when is it up to others to not take it?

If sensibilities are dictated by society and politics, then we are left with the absurd situation of a West that fairly tolerates Muslim riots on European streets, glosses over their death threats and honor/ religious killings, and even caters to minority Muslim feelings, and that of a Muslim world in which Christian, Jews and others are so repressed they scarcely are free to practice their religion, much less vocalize offense. And so, Islam has righteousness, the West has rights. Westerners in the East have neither, and Muslims in the West have both. The game would be over on account of "tilt" were it not for modernity on our side. It's on theirs, too, as some Muslims realize, just not the Islamists.

MaxedOutMama said...

Yes, there is a difference between saying "You're wrong!" and saying "You're wrong and you must die!"