Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
The recent offer by Ghulam Ahmad Bilour (GABbie), Pakistan’s federal railways minister, of $100,000 to anyone who would assassinate the maker of “Innocence of Muslims” reminds me of the time when the bedridden and close-to-death Ayatollah Khomeini made a similar fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie. While GABbie and Khomeini have almost nothing in common – one is a Sunni and the other a Shia, one is a minister of a useless department while the other made a country useless – their actions have put them in similar garbage-filled buckets.
While I suspect Khomeini’s actions had a bigger impact than GABbie’s, I thought this was a good opportunity to revisit Mr. Rushdie. I am not a big fan of Mr. Rushdie’s work, primarily because I can’t read anything that doesn’t have pictures, but I can recognize injustice and that is what Mr. Rushdie went through for a few decades. One, though, has to admire Mr. Rushdie’s gumption in the face of threats and the murder and attempted murder of his collaborators. He wrote multiple books while in exile and also got married to Padma Lakshmi. Eventually the Iranian government rescinded the fatwa and Mr. Rushdie went on to live a normal life – his latest book “Joseph Anton: A Memoir” was recently released. However, that first attempted suppression of a person’s freedom of expression has now become the norm in the Muslim community and every other day we hear of threats against someone whose words or actions are perceived to have caused some offense.
I suspect that unlike Mr. Rushdie, most of the targets of these threats will face more harm such as murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. I cannot even begin to understand the Muslim world’s fascination with violence in the context of professing love for their religious leader. However, I can understand the reasoning behind GABbie’s offer: Pakistan’s railway system simply does not work and the only way for GABbie to protect his job is to ensure that he has a strong case of religious discrimination when he’s fired. While this offer does ensure that case, I think the $100,000 would have been better spent if he had just given it to Zardari. Of course, no one ever accused GABbie of having half a brain.