Monday, June 2, 2008

Assassination by Isaac Asimov

This is an excerpt from the article published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, October, 1989 after Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual and political leader of Iran called for the execution of the British novelist Salman Rushdie, accused of blaspheming Islam in his novel "The Satanic Verses."

In 1989, however, something new was added. A religious call went out to kill the author of a book that some people found offensive. It was complete with the offer of money and premise of heaven.
Now many books are offensive. One can refuse to read them. One can denounce them. One can demonstrate against them. I can easily (all too easily) imagine books that I would find so offensive I would join · marsh against them.
But it is wrong to attempt to force people not to read it, or use force against the writer. Think what a horrible precedent that would set. Any book, any book at all, is offensive to somebody Or other. If the present threat succeeds, it will encourage future threats of the sort. Think of what a chilling effect that would have on free speech. Even the United States wouldn't remain a haven. What is the defense against fanatics? It takes only one.
Will it become necessary for writers to weigh every word? Is this going to offend the baby-carriage manufacturers? Is that going to offend the pole-vaulters?
A certain well-known Cardinal denounced the book in question and said he would recommend that Catholics not read it because it offended another religion. And of course he was against the threatened murder. However, was he doing the right thing?
Since then, there has been a threat to blow up Dante's tomb be. cause in "The Divine Comedy," he placed in Hell some individuals that are revered by other religions. Would the Cardinal suggest that his flock not read Dante? Is he going to disown the Crusaders? Is he going to disown Philip H of Spain? And how about Torquemada? I find him offensive.
In other words, where does this sort of thing stop?

You can find the entire article 'Assassination' as part of: The Old Man of the Mountain

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