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Palgrave Macmillan

The Rushdie Fatwa and After

A Lesson to the Circumspect

ISBN 9781137388599
Publication Date June 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

The freedom to create was rocked by the Imam Khomeini's death sentence on Salman Rushdie 25 years ago. Ever since Khomeini's fatwa called for Rushdie's murder because of what he wrote in his novel The Satanic Verses, the zealous of many faiths have been moved on more than one occasion to protest – often with extreme violence – artistic expression in all its forms. The Rushdie Fatwa and After untangles that original event and the other major attacks on creative freedom it presaged. It argues that our ability to resist this assault has been seriously undermined by Western tolerance. The ripples of the stone the Imam cast that day in 1989 are travelling yet, disturbing the waters of the Western Enlightenment, circles within circles, like the stories of The 1001 Nights. Now Winston presents this sorry history as what that book might well call 'a lesson to the circumspect'.

Brian Winston is the Lincoln Professor at the University of Lincoln. He was the founding director of the Glasgow Media Group and has published widely on media history and technology, media ethics, documentary film and freedom of expression, including A Right to Offend (2012).

Foreword: A Lesson to the Circumspect: Warning - Understanding - Toleration - Sensitivity - Offensiveness
1. A Story to Pass the Waking Hours of the Night: The Original Offence
2. A More Remarkable Story: Throwing Down the Gauntlet
3. Give Me More of These Examples: Contagion
Afterword: Perceive the Dawn of Day: Lessons to the Circumspect


"This is not the first account of how the Satanic Verses affair came about, but it is by far the most wide-ranging and best informed. It also includes equally authoritative accounts of numerous subsequent incidents such as the murder of the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh and the Danish cartoons controversy, which, it is convincingly argued here, need to be seen as ramifications of the Salman Rushdie case. But this is far more than simply a recital of the facts, richly detailed and highly informative though it most certainly is in this respect. For what we also have here is a resounding defence of the principles of free expression, not in the debased, self-interested and ill-informed manner in which the British press habitually defends its 'right' to do as it damn well pleases, but in highly sophisticated philosophical terms. This is a key contribution to the debate not only on the right to free expression, including the right to offend, but on media freedom in general in the post-Leveson era." - Julian Petley, Brunel University, UK
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