Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022

The Free Speech Phobia, Book Ban, Fatwa And Beyond Salman Rushdie

'Nothing is too profane to write, albeit nothing is too sacred to ban. Some of the bannings, if we analyse, are revenge bans. That occurs when the sect prohibiting the book is offended by another ban of a certain book they revere. The rivalry between the schools of thoughts pollute the ideosphere. Rushdie and beyond…'

People burning a copy of The Satanic Verses.
People burning a copy of The Satanic Verses. Getty Images

Does paper burn that easily as the emperors and authorities, sects and cults, religious and political leaders, and even jilted lovers seem to think it does? Qui Shi Huang, the emperor who bound the provinces of China together in 213 BC tried to burn all history books barring a few related to Li Si (or Li Suu)'s philosophy 'Legalism'. He was afraid that the past narrated by other authors would diminish him and question his authority.

That dear propels people desiring to ban a book, burn papers, or in the cases of Rushdie and of many more authors, to kill the thought at its very source.

Can the words once written be obliterated from the universe?

In recent years the plague of book banning ignites the question of whether we and our authorities have become more and more frightened of the catechism we do not like. 

Between the beginning of the pandemic and now, PEN America states, in that country alone 1586 book-bans had occurred. The country that celebrates free speech did not leave even the Bible alone. A Texas school district found the Bible offensive and sexually explicit and hence unfit for a school library.

Nothing is too profane to write, albeit nothing is too sacred to ban.

Some of the bannings, if we analyze, are revenge bans. That occurs when the sect prohibiting the book is offended by another prohibition of a particular book they revere. The rivalry between the schools of thought pollutes the ideosphere. 

  • Any self-respecting graphic novel lover has heard of or read the book, Maus by Art Spiegelman. The Pulitzer-winning book uses the metaphors of a mouse-civilization to highlight Nazism and the harrowing effect of the holocaust. The book is banned extensively in Tennessee.
  • On the other hand, a graphic book based on Anne Frank's Diary by Ari Folman and illustrator David Polonsky was put behind the bar of sanctions in Texas. You can see the point.
  • It was India that banned The Satanic Verses in October 1988 and barred Salman Rushdie from entering the country fearing his writings, especially the book that eventually instigated Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a Fatwa on 14 February 1989, and triggered the knife attack on the author in 2022, The Satanic Verses, might cause troubles. The ban itself might have triggered a butterfly effect.
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood has been banned, sometimes by cults and states and sometimes by entire countries like Spain and Portugal. After all, a dystopian novel that points its fingers at misogyny and other forms of oppression can send a message of fear to those who think banning books can hold a stream of thought.
  • The Handmaid's Tale
    The Handmaid's Tale
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee is an innocent novel that is anything but naive. Its tale challenges the tolerance of both white American and non-white segments. The fact that it does so highlights how words sampled out of context can diminish the narrative, and even flip its purpose. Its theme of rape and use of profanity and racial profiling are questioned as well. 
  • In India, the way of the USA, we fail to find certain books in some specific states because of the statewide prohibition. Ramayana: A True Reading by Periyar E. V. Ramasamy is banned in Uttar Pradesh because its analysis may hurt religious sentiments.
  • West Bengal had to ban Taslima Nasrin's Dwikhandito in 2003 because it defamed poet Syed Hasmat Jalal. Here it was the Hon'ble High Court that injuncted the circulation of the book. However, her more famous banned book is Lajja. The Bangladesh government banned Lajja two months after the book was published in 1993 because of its savage statements against religion. The political situation of the subcontinent was on fire. The wound of the anti-Hindu riots that erupted in Bangladesh, and the demolition of Babri Masjid in India before that were raw.
  • In Maharashtra Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India by James Laine is banned after the book provoked a section to attack Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute where the author researched for his book. Regrettably, the aggression destroyed several rare manuscripts and books. It was 2004.

The pop fiction The Da Vinci Code is banned in several catholic countries although some priests actually said the book might have drawn people to the religion once more. In the state of Nagaland, the book is banned owing to the alleged blasphemy.

  • The Da Vinci Code

    The Da Vinci Code
  • An Area of Darkness by V. S. Naipaul is banned in India. The government considered its portrayal of the country to be negative.
  • Understanding Islam through Hadis by Ram Swarup published in 1982 was banned because of the obvious fear that it might trigger riots.
  • Returning to the modern classics and gems, surprisingly Brave New World, a dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley, was banned in various libraries and countries like Ireland because of promiscuous sex, and elements considered to be anti-religion and anti-family.
  • Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison, was banned in parts of the USA because of its treatment regarding disturbed families and 'explicit' material. Times' writer Olivia B. Waxman  says, "one of the reasons Morrison’s books, in particular, are controversial is because they address, unabashedly, nearly all of the above, centering on dark moments in American history that can be uncomfortable for some people to talk about."
  • Published in Paris by Olympia Press in 1955, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was banned by the French government a year later. The first U.S. edition of the novel, published in 1958, ranked it among the bestselling novels of all time, with 100,000 copies sold in the first few weeks, and more than 50 million copies sold worldwide since then.
  • The unforgettable book-bans include Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) By George Orwell in the leftist countries because of its satires against communism, Animal Farm, (1945) by the same author, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller because of its depiction of sexual intimacy, for the same reason Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, and we should ponder why Under the Roofs of Paris by Henry Miller (originally published as Opus Pistorum), a novel written for money and for an erotic publication was not the subject of such a ban.
  • The prohibitor wants to control the tide, and the prohibition often renders the tide more force. Sometimes we buy a pirated copy of the book because of the ban. 'The sexy pixie dust', Salman Rushdie's phrase applies here.