Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Free Speech

“Respect pour Salman Rushdie”- Charlie Hebdo.

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Salman Rushdie condemns attack on Charlie Hebdo. 2015.

English PEN condemns today’s shootings at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo as a shocking assault on press freedom and free speech. Writer and PEN Pinter Prize winner Salman Rushdie has issued the following statement about the horrifying events in Paris

Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”


Charlie Hebdo has responded to the attack on Salman Rushdie,

Respect pour Salman Rushdie. 12th of August, Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau.

“The word respect has become a weapon used to threaten and even kill.”

Nothing justifies a fatwa, a death sentence” , the editor of Charlie Hebdo,  Riss wrote after the attack against the British writer Salman Rushdie . “At the time of writing, we do not know the motivations of the perpetrator of the knife attack,” wrote Riss, one of the few survivors of the 2015 terrorist attack in Paris. Adding, with heavy irony: ” Was he enraged about against global warming, the cost of living crisis, or against the ban on watering flower pots during the heatwave? “

“Let’s take the risk of saying that he is probably a believer, that he is just as probably a Muslim and that he committed his act even more probably in the name of the fatwa launched in 1989 by the Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, and which condemned him to death” the cartoonist, writer and publisher continued.

[Attaque au couteau de Salman Rushdie: ce que l’on sait de l’agresseur présumé. Agé de 24 ans, Hadi Matar a été arrêté après avoir tenté d’assassiner l’écrivain. D’après ses réseaux sociaux, il vouait un culte au régime iranien et au Hezbollah libanais. Salman Rushdie knife attack: What we know about the alleged attacker Aged 24, Hadi Matar was arrested after attempting to assassinate the writer. According to his social networks, he worshiped the Iranian regime and Lebanese Hezbollah. Libération.]

“We heard commentators this evening explaining that the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was all the viler because what he had written in his book, The Satanic Verses, was not at all disrespectful towards Islam. This is distorted logic, because conversely, disrespectful remarks towards Islam would then explain a fatwa and a punishment, even if it was fatal.”

“Not at all. We will have to repeat again and again that nothing, absolutely nothing justifies a fatwa, a death sentence, by anyone for anything whatsoever….”

Riss is impassioned against giving authority to religious figures and texts written by an “illuminé” (a fanatic inspired by faith). He asks, “By what right do individuals – and we don’t give a toss about whether they are religious believers – take upon themselves the right to say that someone must die? ” It would be better insead to put “our trust in Humanity,” “human intelligence, sensitivity and creativity.”

“…the word “respect” is systematically brandished by religions. Their dogmas affirm absurd things which can only be imposed by submission or intimidation. When you inspire respect, you don’t need to issue fatwas to be credible. Respect is not due, it is earned. This is where the great weakness of religions lies. They more often inspire ridicule than respect.”

Salman Rushdie made the same essential point, in fewer words,

“Why can’t we debate Islam?” he said. “It is possible to respect individuals, to protect them from intolerance, while being sceptical about their ideas, even criticising them ferociously.”

Salman Rushdie on Islam: ‘We have learned the wrong lessons’

Guardian July 2015.

“The Satanic Verses, if published today, would not be defended by those who protested against Charlie Hebdo’s PEN award, says author.”

On Newsnight yesterday evening:


Written by Andrew Coates

August 13, 2022 at 4:35 pm

Solidarity and Love to Salman Rushdie – stabbed onstage.

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Author Salman Rushdie has been attacked onstage at an event in New York state and stabbed in the neck, police have confirmed. (Guardian)

Rushdie, the author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked on Friday morning as he was about to give a lecture in western New York.

An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin assaulting Rushdie as he was being introduced. The author was taken or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained and taken into custody.

A statement from New York state police released about an hour after the incident said that Rushdie suffered “an apparent stab wound to the neck”. He was immediately transported by helicopter to a hospital in the area, though his condition was “not yet known”.

The attack on the Indian author Salman Rushdie is already being talked of as an assault by a racist Islamist…

But some Muslims reject the bigotry of the Fatwa.

This is what some of us said at the time of the Rushdie Affair – Interlink the Journal of the Socialist Society.


Review, Tendance Coatesy:

From Fatwa to Jihad. Kenan Malik. Melville House. 2009.

It is twenty years since Ayatollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, pronounced his Fatwa against Salman Rushdie. On 14th of February 1999 he sentenced to death all involved in its publication. The Cleric offered a reward of $3 million (or $1 million to a non-Muslim) for anyone who carried out the murder. The effects of this ‘judgement’ still reverberate.

In this finely layered book, From Fatwa to Jihad, Kenan Malik describes the campaign against the Satanic Verses. Its unfolding left a significant legacy in the United Kingdom. He concentrates on two important areas. How the Rushdie affair provided an opportunity for Islamists of various stripes to assert themselves on the national scene. Behind fronts, the latest being the Muslim Council of Britain, they have laid claim to being the true representatives of British Muslims. The other is an account of the way in which the British state’s accommodation to such groups has shaped multiculturalism. How the Rushdie Affair brought to the fore fundamental principles  of freedom of speech. That is, how these liberties have been eroded by the defence of the sacred in the name of difference.

Malik reminds us that the Satanic Versesis a complex and densely textured piece of literature. It was initially considered as a playful ‘post-modernist’ kaleidoscope with pronounced anti-racist traits. Most today, however, remember the episodes involving ‘Mahound’ (an amusing caricature of Mohamed). These were loosely anchored on the ‘Satanic verses’. That is, revelations that did not fit with doctrine (accepting a compromise over traditional deities) that were later excluded from the Qur’an.

The novel’s parody of Islam’s founder’s years of rule and, notably, of his wives – such as the (historically real) decision to execute poets critical of the Prophet immediately raised a few hackles. They were gleefully seized on. In recounting the less picturesque tale of the organised outbidding by Saudi Arabian inspired outrage, and Iran’s, Malik details the Muslim protests.

These began on the Indian subcontinent, reached the streets of the UK and culminated in atrocities: the attack on William Nygaard, Rushdie’s Norwegian translator, the knifing to death of his Japanese confrère, Hitoshi Igarashi. In Turkey, a Hotel meeting at Sivas, of the liberal Alevi religious current, at which the Rushdie translator, Aziz Nesin attended was surround by a mob. It was razed to the ground. 37 people were killed. The killers were prosecuted but the Turkish state initially attempted to try Nesin. I had occasion to talk to a Kurdish Alevi (now an atheist)  a few days ago and she still seethed with rage at the inferno and the Islamist pogrom in the town that followed. These events, as much as the book itself and the furore in Britain, left their mark.

At the time many people, liberals and leftists, including his publishers, Penguin, defended Rushdie. Yet a few empathised with the ‘hurt’ caused to Islam by the ‘West’. Or considered that Rushdie was a foreign chap out to make trouble. The most notable case was the British Government. Its spokespeople expressed ‘understanding’ for the anti-Rushdie anger, and apologised for the publication of the Satanic Verses.

Meanwhile the British Islamists who marched, attracted a wider audience. They discovered pride and identity in Islam. Former leftists from a Muslim background began to join them. He does not delve deeply into this, but it was also a key moment not just in the state’s policy of co-option, but in leftist accommodation to Islamism.

The process has been encouraged by those who consider this a repeat of assertions of anti-racist Black identity. Why these are not considered traitors to the left on a par with ex-Trotskyist neo-conservatives is but one of many shameful aspects of the affair. Their contribution to reaction, should, all proportions kept, never be excused. Malik takes great pains, bolstered by on-the-spot investigation, to prove how wrong this approach is. What has happened is a proliferation of religious and ethnic fragmentation – hardly a left-wing objective. A world in which the most rigorous forms of Political Islam have flourished.

Talking to former members of the Bradford based Asian Youth Movement, Malik explores how this has occurred on the ground. In place of this 1970s anti-racist movement, with its class based and inclusive agenda, we have “plural monoculturalism”, with competing ‘communities’ fighting it out for public resources. After the initial Black (political) identity of anti-racism, we were faced with a process of endless redefinition, frequently on religious grounds (Islam first, rapidly imitated by other faiths). This finished by “imposing identities on people”.

Nor was this a matter of purely cultural politics. A crude power struggle for community grants was been encouraged by challenging funding through religious and ethnic ‘community leaders’ – from the Greater London Council’s policy during the Livingstone 1980s period (reintroduced by the new GLA in the second millennium) to Birmingham’s Umbrella Group. The scene is set by the process, of doling out cash on what Malik calls a ‘tribal’ basis. In this way “multiculturalism has helped create new divisions and more intractable conflicts which made for a less openly racist but a more insidiously tribal Britain.”

Many cases of ethnic and religious jostling, from Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians, to the opens sore between South Asians and those of black descent, follow. The complicity of some of the left in this spoils-system, and the bullying shown by those who wield the term Islamophobia to shout down their critics, is well known. Thus it is a shame the author of From Fatwa to Jihad did not interview at greater length leftist activists who have long expressed opposition to this kind of multiculturalism – communalism in all but name. Such opinions are shared beyond the stalwart anti-racists of Southall Black Sisters– rightly cited out by Malik for their persistence to fight fundamentalism of any ilk. It is becoming a key issue for grass-roots left politics in fighting the rise of another ‘community’ ethnic politics. That is the one Malik notes, parading under the label of ‘British identity’ – the BNP.

Malik does not follow the self-lacerating route of explaining Islamism through the ‘humiliation’ of Muslims. He covers the spectrum of Islamic social and theological doctrines. From Fatwa to Jihad centres on Islamism, that is, the political-religious forces  often called fundamentalists or intègrists. Getting to grips with the political and cultural roots of the phenomenon he draws on recent writings by Olivier Roy and others he detects a response to globalisation in the diverse tans-national movements. They are fixated on rules, and literal interpretations of the Qur’an.

Yet many enthusiasts are strangely contemporary, with tinges of New Age individualism. Islamism “is very much a child of modern plural societies, with its celebration of ‘difference’ and ‘authenticity.” The screams of hate against any perceived insult of Islam are more about blaspheming their ‘feelings’ than serious theology. This is less clear. No doubt there are some forms of Islam that fit this mould. Locally there is the mysteriously wealthy Origo ‘community’ centre and café which acts as a cover for an Islamic version of the Alpha Course*.

But what of more directly Political Islam?  If it is anything, it is organised. They have finance, they have class origins, not just the educated jihadis that Malik cites, but leaders in the pious Islamist bourgeoisie. Al-Qaeda may be dispersed around the world; other networks are rigidly structured, as Hizb ut-Tahrir indicates. The way these bodies operate offers an entry into religious revelation. The objectives may be the fantastic Cockaigne of an Islamic Republic in which only the pure may walk. But the effects are manifold. This inspires people’s whole lives, and cuts them off (when politically translated) from the rest of society. So both streams of Islam exist – alongside all the multiple forms of traditionalism and modernism.

A recent case, the Danish caricatures, is an indication of both individualism and organisation, Malik has not rouble showing that the very act of representing Mohamed is not against traditional Islam. It is rather considered a personal attack on puffed up individualists. But it was the ‘Muslim community’ with its all-too eager offence seekers that arranged the protests, to which the British liberals and government so cravenly capitulated. They might not achieve their utopia but the Islamists search for political influence and power continues. Over the bodies of the impure.  

What impulse, detached from the realities of  human needs, and based on religious delirium, encourages these forces? How do they recruit? Their propaganda is telling. Fear plays a big part. The height of this trend, Malik demonstrates, can be found in warning about an immanent Endlösung for European Muslims, as if the whiff of the gas chambers had crept into our streets. Malik shows that this is “hysterical to the point of delusional.

While restrictions on civil liberties in the ‘war against terrorism’ (a very real terror, as 7/7 indicates domestically), infringe human rights, and there are some bouts of aggression against Moslems, there is little evidence of systematic attacks on British Muslims. Still less the kind of religious  discrimination against, say, Copts in Egypt. On stop-and search alone it is youths of an Afro-Caribbean background who are overwhelmingly targeted. The BNP rails against foreigners en bloc,  and are equal opportunity racistsMalik indeed argues, “If Muslims are singled out in Britain, and it is often for privileged treatment.” That is, public figures from Prince Charles to Tony Blair, go out of their way to praise its contribution to the world, and there are constant arrangements made to accommodate believers – subsidies, provisions for observance of ritual, and even efforts to incorporate Sharia ‘law’ into British jurisprudence. Nevertheless the effect of this rhetoric may be, he observes, to legitimate slaughtering the ‘kufer’, as acts of resistance.

The upshot is a poisonous legacy. Today Malik remarks, there is “widespread acceptance that it had been wrong to publish, and even more wrong to republish. Writers and artists, political leaders insisted, had a responsibility to desist from giving offence and upsetting religious sensibilities.” The law of blasphemy has been repealed but the first steps towards prosecuting criticism of religion have been taken through other legislation. Against this the wholly misguided view has been expressed that this is a battle between the ‘West’ and Islam.

Even the Enlightenment has been conscripted to this distorted cause. Destroying the very universalism which is its mark. The upshot? The failure to advance genuine Enlightenment canons of freedom of speech, and universalistic anti-racism, has “helped build a culture of grievance, in which being offended is a badge of identity, cleared a space for radical Islamists to flourish and made secular and progressive arguments less sayable, particularly within Muslim communities.” 

This book cannot be recommended too much. The dilemma of how to promote real equality, and universalism, in the face of the demands of anti-democratic religious groups, remains a key political issue. This is not a problem just of the ‘unrepresentative’ nature of bodies like the Muslim Council of Britain. It’s deeper. There can be absolutely no compromise or flexibility on the core principles of the Enlightenment, freedom of thought, enquiry and expression, at their head. In the meantime I wish that all those attending the meeting I went to last night at a Council for Racial Equality, would read From Fatwa to Jihad.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 12, 2022 at 6:56 pm

Leading Campaigner Against Our Lady of Heaven, Roshan M Sali, “The Taliban took over Afghanistan fairly peacefully as anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of what happened last year will know. Accusations of murder, rape etc are just made up in my view and have no evidential basis.”

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Leading Campaigner Against the Lady of Heaven.

There was an important article in the ‘I‘ (the daily this Blog always buys a print copy of) yesterday by Kate Maltby about the campaign against the film the Lady of Heaven.

Our attention was caught by the emphasis given to the role in stirring up religious hatred against the film by the Islamist site 5 Pillars and the “journalist” Roshan M Sali”. Roshan Muhammed Salih worked for the Iranian regime’s Press TV and was first London news editor and chief correspondent. Press TV is a division of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting  (IRIB), the only organisation legally able to transmit radio and television broadcasts inside Iran. IRIB’s head is appointed directly by the state’s supreme leader, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, who, apart from his role in upholding the state’s repression of opposition and ‘un-Islamic’ activities (“He issued a fatwa declaring women riding bicycles haram”) is a right-wing pillar of the conservative establishment.

In 2010, Khamenei issued a fatwa which bans any insult to the Sahabah (companions of Muhammad) as well as Muhammad’s wives. The fatwa was issued in an effort to reconcile legal, social, and political disagreements between Sunni and Shia

In 2009 Salih wrote of his paymasters, “let me turn to the Islamic Republic of Iran, from which Press TV gets its funding – I believe it is a fundamentally decent government run by a fundamentally decent man.” -in this case Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (President of Iran from 2005 to 2013).

The mouthpiece of the Islamist state, Press TV, has been reporting, although it no longer (since 2012) has a broadcast licence in the UK, on the campaign to deny people the freedom to watch Our Lady of Heaven.

Press TV, Birmingham (Friday)

Amid nationwide protests against the controversial movie ‘Lady Of Heaven’, British Muslim scholars gathered in Birmingham on Friday to condemn the controversial movie.

Representatives from the Shia, Sunni, and Sufi Islamic schools of thought signed a joint statement slamming the film as “divisive and sectarian.”

Released in the UK on June 3rd, the film depicts the life and death of Fatima Zahra, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad. 

However, the controversial depiction of the Holy Prophet’s spouse and companions has sparked protests in several countries.

Following the backlash, British media adopted the narrative of the movie writer and hate preacher Yasser Habib, portraying the protests as a Shia-Sunni conflict. 

Clearly, the divisive and sectarian narrative adopted by the British mainstream media is false. However, will the British mainstream adopt these types of events in their coverage or just continue to peddle the divisive narrative put out by the producers of this film?

Or as 5 Pillars Tweets:

5 Pillars is probably best known outside its own narrow circles for its campaign against  Relationships and Sex Education (RSE).

What price would you pay to protect the values of your children? (2020)

Yusuf Patel from SREIslamic explains how a coalition of Muslim and other faith group parents are taking the government to court to reinstate the right to withdraw our children from sex education classes.

Sex Education, Muslim parenting and the LGBTQ lobby (2022).

The site is well known for its anti-gay views:

Educator Yusuf Patel asks what is the point of electing Muslim MPs who advance causes, such as a ban on gay conversion therapy, which will detrimentally impact our children. (3 Weeks ago).

We often hear about the vital need to have Muslim MPs in Parliament fighting our corner.

On some issues where there’s little risk or there’s wider support from “white people,” they will seemingly be brave and show courage but on other issues that draw the ire of certain groups they will be noticeably silent.

Worse still are those occasions where they will support initiatives that will be deeply harmful to the Muslim community.

But Rosham Salih has become notorious for other reasons.

Policy Exchange published in 2020 this article on the man,

It is difficult to ascertain the impact of such support for the supremacy of shari’a upon British Muslims’ attitudes towards life in Britain. But it is concerning that the editor of a website that claims to be the “Largest regulated Muslim news site in Europe, Australia and the Americas” should express such views seemingly without a challenge.

In August last year, he tweeted that Muslims should not be embarrassed to defend shari’a and its harsh punishments (below).

But he has also, on numerous occasions, drawn attention to the “standard of proof” that has to be met for such punishments to be meted out, such as in a tweet also from August 2020 (below).

Yet, Salih seemed to have ignored the importance he attaches to this “standard of proof” or “stringent conditions”, when he declared, regarding the “legions” of ordinary Afghans who had worked with the British and American forces: “Ultimately, all these people committed treachery to one degree or another and sold their nation down the river to foreigners”. He seemed to have already made his mind up about their guilt.

Salih wrote that some Afghans provided reasons – “excuses” – that they needed the money to support their families. Some worked with the British and Americans because they thought they were “far better” than the Taliban. Others felt “troubled and remorseful”. But, for Salih, they are all “traitors”. He wrote: “if our general attitude is one of forgiveness to traitors who are willing to betray their own nation, then this is a recipe for eternal Western invasion, occupation and subjugation.”

Salih’s trip was funded by 5Pillars “donors”. These donations likely came via the 5Pillars website. It is unclear if the donors were aware at the time of giving that they would be funding Salih’s trip to Afghanistan and his pro-Taliban writing.

Salih was the head of news at Islam Channel between 2005-2007. Subsequently, for five years, he was the head of news at Press TV, the English language arm of the Iranian regime’s broadcast agency. During this time, in 2012, Ofcom revoked Press TV’s licence to broadcast in Britain.

5Pillars is located at Crown House in North London. Several other Islamist organisations are also based there, including Education Aid for Palestinians, which was dropped by credit card organisations and JustGiving in 2019; the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), which has been criticised for organising “extremist preachers around British universities and mosques”; the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), directed by former MCB deputy secretary general Daud Abdullah; and the Palestine Return Centre (PRC), of which Abdullah is an Advisory Board member.

Several senior staff of these organisations are listed on 5Pillars as contributors, including Ibrahim Hewitt, a Senior Editor of MEMO; Abdurraheem Green, the Chairman of the IERA; and Hamza Tzortzis, IERA’s Lead Instructor. Other contributors include Sufyan Ismail, the founder and former CEO of MEND; Abdul Wahid, the Chairman of Hizb-ut Tahrir Britain; Moazzam Begg, the Outreach Director of CAGE; and Anas Altikriti, the CEO of the Cordoba Foundation.

5Pillars’s website instructs users of its social media pages that there should be no “racism, fascism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia”. In May this year, however, 5Pillars was investigated by Impress, an independent press regulator in the UK, following a series of complaints regarding content on its website and Facebook pages that was claimed could incite hatred towards LGBT people. Impress ruled that a video posted on the website’s Facebook page breached its code, which states that publishers must not incite hatred against any group on the basis of their sexual orientation. The video was subsequently removed under protest from Salih and Deputy Editor, Dilly Hussain, who complained “that a regulator run by secular non-Muslims has delved into an area of Islamic theology and Quranic exegesis where we feel it has absolutely no business or authority”.

Kate Maltby takes of on the views of Salih on Afghanistan:

“Unpopular opinion: We should welcome a quick victory by [the] Taliban,” he tweeted. “This will ensure more peace than Afghanistan has enjoyed since [the] Taliban last ruled. Peace gives everyone a chance to build a better society, war ensures chaos, death and destruction. Sooner [the] Taliban win, the better.”

Salih’s keenness to see things from Taliban perspectives didn’t stop with a tweet. In November, he visited the new regime. He wrote warmly about the generosity with which Taliban officials had offered “forgiveness” to former opponents and – despite the overwhelming evidence that has emerged of Taliban brutalities – insisted that under the Taliban there is “definitely no systemic policy of reprisals”, though he did acknowledge “anecdotal evidence of cases of reprisals being carried out at a local level”.

Still, Salih didn’t disguise the fact that he found soft-touch attitudes “far too forgiving”. Under the headline “Kabul’s dirty little secret – the hordes of Afghan collaborators”, he argued that Afghans who had worked with American and British to build a non-Taliban society had “sold their nation down the river to foreigners”.

He continued: “You don’t even have to be Muslim to realise that one of the most serious crimes you can commit in any country is to help a foreign power establish their authority over your nation. It’s called treason.”

Salih’s keenness to see things from Taliban perspectives didn’t stop with a tweet. In November, he visited the new regime. He wrote warmly about the generosity with which Taliban officials had offered “forgiveness” to former opponents and – despite the overwhelming evidence that has emerged of Taliban brutalities – insisted that under the Taliban there is “definitely no systemic policy of reprisals”, though he did acknowledge “anecdotal evidence of cases of reprisals being carried out at a local level”.

Still, Salih didn’t disguise the fact that he found soft-touch attitudes “far too forgiving”. Under the headline “Kabul’s dirty little secret – the hordes of Afghan collaborators”, he argued that Afghans who had worked with American and British to build a non-Taliban society had “sold their nation down the river to foreigners”.

He continued: “You don’t even have to be Muslim to realise that one of the most serious crimes you can commit in any country is to help a foreign power establish their authority over your nation. It’s called treason.”

She observes,

On Wednesday night, he popped up on BBC Newsnight as the face of a campaign “to remove the film The Lady of Heaven from UK cinemas” – a campaign amplified by the website that he runs, 5Pillars.

Salih insists that the protests that have greeted this film are not violent, although claims of death threats have circulated online. Then again, Salih’s website has form for downplaying Islamist violence: in 2013 he published an article, now removed, which questioned whether the murder of the soldier Lee Rigby by Islamists had in fact been organised by MI5 “to demonise Muslims and Islam”.

What was shocking about Salih’s interview on Newsnight was how little he was challenged on his claim to care only for community harmony. Those who seek to impose codes of Islamist censorship all too often argue that they’re simply seeking to avoid the violence that must inevitably follow “provocation”.

Newsnight is one of our greatest news programmes, but I was surprised to see Kirsty Wark nodding as Salih told the BBC that he didn’t want to see violence, but that “there’s a real danger of sectarian violence in this country and this film could very well provoke that”.

In fact he sounds like a Bond villain “I myself am a man of peace, but my friend here Mr Kneecapping, may well get provoked into violence if you upset him.”

As the I journalist notes of this open display of religious bigotry: the targets of such campaigns are often (far from always) other Muslims. The Lady of Heaven is a good example.

The film’s title refers to Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Mohamed, but she barely features: the story’s narrative is a justification of the religious position of a small community within Shia Islam – a minority within a minority. (Salih called them a “cult” on Newsnight this week – he also called executive producer Malik Shilbak “the Shia Tommy Robinson”, a classic strategy of presenting himself as moderate and his opponents as extremists.)

The line of 5 Pillars and the other religious censors is that we should defer to their interpretation of the history of Islam,

Part of the protesters’ objection is that the film uses CGI to represent the face of the Prophet – a practice now considered forbidden in much of the Muslim world, although the taboo has not been historically uniform across Islam – but their objection is as much to the historical narrative as to the imagery. On the microscale, this is a struggle between two different Muslim groups about who gets to tell the story of Islam.

For now, the Sunni censors seem to have won in Britain..

As Maltby says,

Whether or not we agree with the religious position presented by the makers of The Lady of Heaven – a group who have as much of an idiosyncratic religious agenda as any of their opponents – they have as much right to present their vision of Islamic history as the maddest of orators at Speaker’s Corner have to warn us that the End Is Nigh.


See Shiraz: Cinema chain capitulates to demands for religious censorship

Written by Andrew Coates

June 11, 2022 at 4:29 pm