Satanic Verses

Various Contributors


Even the most self-effacing of those of us who write to be published would admit to the hope that something at least of what we write might affect others' thinking, elicit a response, even, for some, begin a Great Debate.... or be quoted by someone else (a footnote would do?), or become compulsory reading for a generation of students. There is no end to what notoriety or fame a scholar might achieve, although these secret thoughts cannot be made explicit, for fear of being thought too passionate in our rationality, or too ambitious for public recognition. 

Even in our most deluded moments however, we do not think that it is likely that our words will ever send thousands on to the streets in protest, or be a matter of life and death in a number of disparate cultures. We of but moderate ambition are profoundly shocked and puzzled by a response such as that directed towards Salman Rushdie on the publication of his latest novel. As students and scholars of religions, we might not want to think that the power of myth (so 'easily' analysed in this treatise and that) might be responsible. Or is it nothing to do with myth at all, or history, but the politicising of religious ideas? Or is it that we do not understand sufficiently well any of the issues involved and merely make guesses, or indulge in patronising shock-horror commentaries before retreating to some task we can manage without too much anxiety?

In the likelihood that it is the latter that is more the truth, I have asked Professor Tony Johns of the ANU to write a short Feature article on some of the dream sequences in Rushdie's novel so that we understand better the cultural background of Islam and its great scripture and tradition, and the problem of satire in relation to the Sacred..

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