Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Junior Contributor II
Complexion of Artistic Expression.
For decades, Salman Rushdie’s novel; ‘The Satanic Verses’ which was published in 1988, had aroused controversy in the Islamic world moving the community to rebel against the author by arousing conflict, leading protests and even sending death threats towards the author. So, what sparked such a backlash? It’s just a novel, right?
Well, the Islamic community reacted to the apparent blasphemous nature of Rushdie’s novel which employs the use of magical realism with contemporary events from the early years of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). The novel follows the storyline of how the Qur’an was revealed at first by the angel Jibreel (Gabriel in the novel). However, the controversy sprung from Rushdie imposing a false personality and characteristic upon such valued and respectable beings from the Islamic world. This immediately caught the attention of millions of Muslims around the world, even capturing the eyes of politicians, so much so that the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, ordered the killing of Rushdie for creating such a blasphemous text. In Rushdie’s defence, literary critics have argued that the text analyses the boundaries between fact and fiction. Rushdie himself argued that books, texts, religion, communities, beliefs and ideas can all be questioned if it means people are understanding the idea and theory better by building tolerance.
Throughout time, artists and authors have brought about new ideas worth exploring, which increases the contentious nature of some of these novels. Even as recent as 2003, Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ had earned disapproval by Christians and Catholic leaders for its blasphemous material leading to the book being banned in countries such as India and Lebanon. Moving on to 2005, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s ‘And Tango Makes Three’ had been one of the most challenged/banned books for seven years. The book makes many assumptions about homosexuality generating controversial questions about what makes a family. In more recent years, E.L. James’s ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was seen as ‘poorly written’ and ‘semi-pornographic’ , thus, leading it to become banned in 17 libraries in Florida in 2012.
Looking into some of these texts, should it be allowed for literary texts or even other artistic forms to create controversy by disrespecting a belief, in order to question, challenge, debate and understand this belief better globally?
Drawing a fine line between freedom of speech and offence.
What exactly is the definition of freedom of speech and at what point is it considered offensive? We all are passionate about one thing or another and have the free will to act upon it by saying what we believe in. So what if your point doesn’t bode well with someone else’s? To what extent can you express your opinion about a particular belief, topic or idea without causing an outrage, violence or backlash for holding your opinion?