By A. Mondal

Was Salman Rushdie correct to have written The Satanic Verses ? have been the protestors correct to have performed so? What concerning the Danish cartoons? This publication examines the ethical questions raised by means of cultural controversies, and the way intercultural discussion could be generated inside of multicultural societies.

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Additional resources for Islam and Controversy: The Politics of Free Speech After Rushdie

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Islamism came into universities whose academics had the good liberal motive that they should not discriminate against students because of their race or religion, but whose intellectual defences had been weakened by the hysterical attitudes the culture wars fostered . . 6 Anyone who demonstrates less than total solidarity with these figures is sharply rebuked, again without much discussion of their actual arguments. 8 Needless to say, this mirrors the rhetoric of Islamists almost precisely. As for Brian Winston’s tome, which is more measured and ‘academic’, the tactics deployed are correspondingly more sedate and less egregious.

This leads Mill to argue that freedom of expression – conceived as ‘freedom of thought and discussion’ – is valuable because it enables society to progress through the increase of knowledge and truth. In other words, the consequence of 40 Islam and Controversy this freedom is that knowledge and truth will increase, false ideas will be weeded out, and this will in turn enable individuals (and therefore society) to develop a proper apprehension of themselves and their circumstances, and to conceive their own way of living a ‘good’ life accordingly.

This work is invariably political, which is why the politics of controversy cannot be reduced to the instrumentalism of particular political agendas and interests, as is assumed to be the case by liberal commentators. What is being performed in the giving or taking of offence is power or, rather, to be more precise, the positioning of oneself in a power relation. To give offence is to display one’s ability to do so; to take offence is to signal one’s subordinate position in that power relation, to display a vulnerability that marks oneself as a victim or object of power – to perform one’s powerlessness.

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