Every Sunday Latitude News is taking a look at stories of faith and religion from around the world. This week we’re bringing you an opinion piece from South Africa’s Daily Maverick. In it, Kalim Rajab, a young Muslim South African who works in the financial services, uses the controversial author Salman Rushdie to discuss tolerance and free speech.
Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses earned him a death sentence from conservative Muslim clerics for portraying Mohammed as a false prophet. More recently, the book sparked angry protests in Jaipur on the eve of Rushdie’s scheduled arrival in the Indian city for a popular literary festival. Rushdie ended up canceling his visit.
Rajab writes that although the Satanic Verses is “extremely hurtful to Muslims and demeaning to their faith,” the book is an opportunity to learn from the life of Mohammed: “[The Prophet] never closed down debate. He never condoned the killing of those who opposed him. Rather, he taught peace, and that all abuse should be borne by patience . . . My faith is far too entrenched to feel threatened by an opposing viewpoint, or an artist’s license.”
Rajab’s message of tolerance stands in sad contrast to what’s happening in other parts of Africa these days. In a column in The Japan Times, the Canadian journalist and military historian Gwynne Dyer describes how Sudan, Ethiopia, Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria are being ripped apart along Muslim/Christian fault-lines. In Nigeria, especially, the conflict has become incredibly violent.Dyer reports that the leader of the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram (“Western education is forbidden”) recently promised his next campaign of violence would be directed at Nigeria’s secondary schools and universities.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, at least twenty-eight Afghans have been killed and hundreds wounded in riots after it was revealed that US personnel had thrown several Korans into a fire pit at the American Air Force base in Bagram. Yesterday, NATO pulled its personnel from Afghan’s government ministries after a native soldier murdered two American officers inside the heavily guarded Interior Ministry. The bloodshed shows no signs of slowing down.
The top U.S. general in the country has now ordered that all coalition troops undergo training in how to handle religious materials by March 3.
Kalim Rajab’s piece would make a good addition to the curriculum.