Responses to Rushdi's article

These are four letters sent to the editor of the New York Times about an article written by Salman Rushdie. The article appeared in The Guardian of Lonon and the New York Times last week.

February 20, 1997

Rushdie's Case Symbolizes European Ideals

To the Editor:

Salman Rushdie criticizes the European countries for not going far enough in guarding the civilization he believes is its proud past ("Europe's Shameful Trade in Silence," Op-Ed, Feb. 15). He uses the fatwa, the Muslim religious edict calling for his death, imposed on him eight years ago as an example of how Europe today is more interested in trade with Iran than in protecting "the great European ideals" of free expression, human rights and the right to dissent.

Yet the protection of Mr. Rushdie's civil liberties by the British is in no small measure the reason why he can continue to write and openly express his opinion.

Since the fatwa, Mr. Rushdie has become a symbol of the values treasured so dearly by many Europeans. He has had disproportional access to political leaders and the news media because his case has been used to send a message that freedom of speech and individual rights are values that cannot be compromised.

Mr. Rushdie believes that the European Union's respect for civil liberties is little more than "tokenist." But the attention given his case proves how important these values still are in Europe.

New York, Feb. 15, 1997

A Messy Fate

To the Editor:

Salman Rushdie is in a mess. No one deserves such a fate: to wander the Earth in fear, with a bounty on his head for writing a book. Could Sophocles have imagined such a thing?

In his Feb. 15 Op-Ed article, Mr. Rushdie declares his disappointment in Europe for not standing by him. But first he describes Europe's mythic birth: man's struggle to free himself from the gods, and man's eventual ascendancy. But Europe's birth was not mythic. The only god that figured in the creation of Europe is the God man himself created.

Mr. Rushdie believes that the Europe "worth talking about, worth re-creating" is "broader than a 'culture.' It is a civilization." Whatever theories of history one might embrace, be they theories of nations or of the individual, the fact is that man clings to the status quo. The thousand years of "conquest, pillage, exterminations and inquisitions," as Mr. Rushdie puts it, is a program burned in. It's not going to change in a couple of decades.

Mr. Rushdie believes that "civilization" has finally prevailed. He cannot understand why he is left to soldier on alone. Europe just won't help. He even blames the Danes -- who, in 1943, at considerable risk, ferried virtually the entire Jewish population of Denmark to safety -- for selling him out for feta cheese exports to Iran.

Like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," Mr. Rushdie has been uprooted and blown about. Unfortunately, his is no yellow brick road, nor is he ever likely to find the good witch.

Gaithersburg, Md., Feb. 16, 1997

Luxury Goods

To the Editor:

Certainly Salman Rushdie (Op-Ed, Feb. 15) cannot be surprised at Europe's lack of interest in his plight. Money has always come first: witness Switzerland's laundering of Nazi gold.

"Civilization" has always been a luxury good in Europe. When there is time and no risk, then and only then does Europe stand by its highest values.

Wilmette, Ill., Feb. 15, 1997

Muslims' Plight

To the Editor:

The overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims reject Iran's fatwa against Salman Rushdie (Op-Ed, Feb. 15). However, they are unable to come out in his support because Mr. Rushdie has expressed no real remorse for insulting Islam's holy prophet and his companions in his book "The Satanic Verses." Having acted as Zeus to the sensibilities of the Muslims, he is now begging for Europe to bail him out.

Most of the world's Muslims are an impoverished lot; religion is all they have in this world. They believe in one God -- He is not called "freedom of speech." Indeed, contrary to Mr. Rushdie's article, for people dying of starvation, feta cheese is more important than freedom of speech.

FAKHRUDDIN AHMED Princeton Jct., N.J., Feb. 18, 1997

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