Today is the 18th anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declaring a Fatwa on Salman Rushdie for writing the Satanic Verses. It was a wake up call to the coming challenge to the freedoms of a liberal society but one that we failed to heed.
The Rushdie affair demonstrated the spinelessness of the British political class in the face of Islamic extremism. The Crown Prosecution Service refused to prosecute those who openly called for Rushdie’s death. The Islamist Kalim Siddiqui amazingly got away with telling a public meeting, “I would like every Muslim to raise his hand in agreement with the death sentence on Salman Rushdie. Let the world see that every Muslim agrees that this man should be put away.”
Both Labour and Tory politicians embarrassed themselves and failed to grasp how essential it was to protect the right to free expression. The Labour deputy leader called for the paperback edition not to be published and some backbench Tories whinged about how much Rushdie’s protection cost. Indeed, Rushdie ended up being pressured into contributing to his own security costs. All in all, a shameful episode.