This just may be what comes of the triumphant cry of the warrior who knows but one truth, and who is determined to destroy all those who stand in its way: Salman Rushdie, laying in a pool of blood on a stage at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. He was getting ready to speak to a group of like-minded souls about the United States as a refuge for writers exiled elsewhere.
Then a long knife in the hands of a mad man struck, again and again and again. A furious 24-year-old stormed the stage, nearly killing Rushdie before stunned onlookers could subdue him.
You want cancel culture? This is where it leads, inevitably – the murderous silencing of dissent.
The Shah of Iran put a price on Rushdie’s head, declaring a Fatwa, or decree from an Islamic religious leader, calling on the faithful to act. In 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran, called on Moslems worldwide to kill Rushdie for the great crime of writing scenes unflattering of none other than Mohammed himself in a piece of literary fiction known as “The Satanic Verses.” This early expression of cancel culture sparked violence, riots and death worldwide. A bounty of several million dollars was placed on Rushdie’s head, a quick, but risky get rich quick scheme. The fatwa remains in place, and The New York Times places the value of the bounty at $3.3 million as of 2012.
The would be killer? A man named Hadi Matar, who was taken into custody at the scene.
Was the mayhem the result of the fatwa?
Oh, this could just be another piece of random madness of the sort that seems all too regular these days. Had Rushdie been attacked with a firearm, there’d no doubt be marches for gun safety measures among the polite and politically correct. There will not, I suspect, be a similar outcry for better training in the use of cutlery.
Little is know about Matar. The New York Times reported him a “New Jersey” man, obscuring, for the sake of diversity, what more is known about Matar. A law enforcement official told NBC news that Matar, who was born in California, demonstrated sympathy for Shia extremism and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard – Iranian shock troopers formed after Islamic extremists seized power in Iran in the late 1970s. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Matar’s attack was inspired by the fatwa. Even the Times spent column inches discussing the fatwa, Rushdie’s decades of living in hiding and seclusion, and left the impression that its editors have reached a conclusion its writers are too feckless to state – Rushdie’s stabbing was a result of intolerance.
Matar was charged with attempted murder in New York shortly after the stabbing. He will soon appear in court for an arraignment, where, undoubtedly, the world’s press will await his appearance. Will he tells us then what inspired him? I doubt it. He’ll be appointed top-drawer counsel to defend him, and their first move will undoubtedly be to have Matar evaluated by a team of psychiatrists. Perhaps the young man is a latter day John Hinckley, seeking to impress some unlucky soul with this shocking act of violence. Or perhaps, and this is speculation, he really is a religious extremist. It would a stunning act of honest lunacy for him to appear before a New York judge and claim Allah’s reward. Intolerance kills.
It was a bad week for Islam in the United States. In Dallas, Yasser Abdel Said was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for killing his two teenage daughters in 2008. Why’d he do that? Said, who was born in Egypt, and came to the United States in 1983, didn’t like the boys his daughters were dating. “I was upset because in my culture it’s something to get upset about,” he said, while denying the killings. Score one for honor killers everywhere. Intolerance kills.
And in Albuquerque, New Mexico, all eyes were on the Moslem community, where a string of homicides of young Islamic men sparked concern that the victims were targets because of their faith. It turns out they may have been, an Afghan Moslem from a different sect has been taken into custody by police. Was this sectarian violence we read about elsewhere? Intolerance kills.
And what of the attempt on the life of an activist living in the greater New York area? The Times reports that men believed to connected to Iran targeted an activist for assassination. Her crime? Speaking out for the rights of women in her native country. Intolerance kills.
There’s a message in this for all the woke virtuosi who are oh-so-certain they know the metes and bounds of the good, true and beautiful. Speak at variance with this crowd, and suffer the consequences – today they will malign you, try to force you from your job and otherwise stalk and harass you. Give them power and ostracism will give way to darker impulses, I fear. There is nothing quite so terrifying as a self-righteous mob.
Rushdie is on a ventilator and suffering from serious, life-threatening injuries. He may well have been mauled because he expressed ideas unpopular to some. The demand for conformity resulted in calls for his execution.
It took 33 years for hatred to strike a near fatal blow in Rushdie’s case. I suspect the growing intolerance in our midst makes the lag time between fatwa – whether religious in origin or merely the unctuous demand of the politically correct – and execution much shorter these days. Rushdie came to New York to celebrate asylum from hate. Little did he know that we’re not immune here, not any more.