‘We are embattled‘, Homi Bhabha wrote amidst the rumpus that greeted the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988, ‘in the war between the cultural imperatives of Western liberalism, and the fundamentalist interpretations of Islam, both of which seem to claim an abstract and universal authority’ (Appignanesi and Maitland, 1990, 112; italics in the original). What Bhabha values in Rushdie’s book is principally its capacity to question and trouble, if not quite dismantle, that simplistic opposition between fundamentalist Islam and an equally dogmatic faith in the virtues of ‘the West’. After all, what Bhabha understands by ‘hybridity’ is a state of cultural and experiential intermixture that makes it illegitimate and harmful to speak of either the West or putative adversaries such as Islam as though they are airtight compartments insulated from contamination or critique by other points of view. Rushdie’s novel constitutes a kind of heresy against religious and other forms of ideological certainty. The Satanic Verses provokes criticism not just (as is well known) of fundamentalist Islam but also (an aspect of the book that is often overlooked, lately even by Rushdie himself) of the West’s cultural complacency and its unselfconscious faith in its own social, political and economic arrangements. My purpose in this chapter is to demonstrate the timeliness and effectiveness of its double-edged critique.
- Literary Text
- Sacred Text
- Religious Fundamentalism
- Aesthetic Theory
- British State
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© 2011 Robert Spencer
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Spencer, R. (2011). Refuse to Choose, or, How to Read The Satanic Verses . In: Cosmopolitan Criticism and Postcolonial Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230305908_6
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London
Print ISBN: 978-1-349-31209-2
Online ISBN: 978-0-230-30590-8