ISD’s Executive Director for AMEA, Moustafa Ayad, and Resident Senior Fellow, Rashad Ali, both feature in New Lines Magazine speaking on the attack against author Salman Rushdie during an event in New York earlier this month. The suspect, a 24-year-old Lebanese American living in New Jersey, allegedly ran up on stage and stabbed Rushdie multiple times in the chest and neck. The author, a self-identified atheist, has lived with a hefty bounty over his head for writing the controversial novel “Satanic Verses,” a book inspired by the life of the Prophet Mohammed and that many Muslims consider blasphemy. The fatwa, a religious order issued by an Islamic leader, was set in 1988 at the request of two British religious activists and called for the death of Rushdie.
Just as it did back then when it was issued, Rushdie’s attack has united and been celebrated by extremists across the Islamic world.
“Rushdie united all Islamists,” Moustafa said to the outlet. “I saw Islamic State supporters [do] ‘takbeer’ [for] the stabbing,” he said — referring to the ritual expression “Allahu Akbar” (“God Is Great”), used among other things to celebrate good news — “and IRCG [Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps] communities [do] takbeer [for] the stabbing.” In other words, “We are seeing opposite ends of the Islamist extremist spectrum coming together to celebrate the maiming of a world renowned author.”
Ayad explains that the unity that was planted over three decades ago has been able to “to transcend borders, transcend generations and ultimately come out with a win.”
When it came to the UK, this unity in the 80’s and beyond contributed to a greater British Muslim identity. “There was a defensive engagement with often hardline elements,” Rashad said “which facilitated the creation of a reactionary Muslim political identity.”
“Previous ethnic identities were replaced — not entirely, but dominantly — with a British Muslim identity,” Rashad explained.