He had insulted our Prophet and his beloved wives and questioned the holiness of the Koran.Our clerics had said as much – though to protect our feelings they alluded only vaguely to the rivers of filth Rushdie had poured on our Prophet.The Koran does not record Mohammed’s life – rather it is a collection of the words God revealed to him.
To write a book that outsiders could use to attack Islam was unforgivable.
That Rushdie was a Muslim turned the violation into a betrayal.
The central incident, to which the book’s title refers, occurs in the first dream chapter, “Mahound”.
(This name alone – a synonym for Mohammed, meaning the Devil, and used by medieval Christian polemicists – seemed designed to irritate Muslims.) To explain why Rushdie’s use of the incident was so controversial requires a little Islamic history.
“The most murderous placards were being carried by the non-observant,” noted Ruthven.
In the years to come we would hear plenty from such angry young men.But I knew I could not ignore The Satanic Verses forever. I hid the book and read it when my parents were asleep.Like Gibreel Farishta, the character whose dreams about the Prophet caused so much outrage, only at night could I explore the novel’s darkness.When Rushdie’s name was then used as a racist taunt at school – “Rushdie, Rushdie” they chanted at me in the playground – I argued back.After all, I was protecting the Prophet’s honour, a cause with considerable backing. At the mosque, when one mischievous boy read from what he claimed was a page of the novel, I was terrified the roof would fall in.Mohammed was born in the Arabian trading town of Mecca in 570.He was a reflective man who often withdrew to meditate in a mountain cave.No longer was being a British Muslim a matter of private spirituality: it was about attitudes adopted, positions taken.The political identity of British Islam was forged in those flames.The major point of contention between Mohammed and the Arabs he wished to convert was the pagan deities they worshipped.One day the pagans offered Mohammed a compromise: if he accepted three female goddesses, Al-Lat, Al-Uzza and Manat as angelic intercessors, they would accept his prophethood.