In September 1988 Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses. In February 1989 Ayatollah Khomeni issued his edict condemning Rushdie for blaspemy and apostasy; he also placed a multimillion dollar bounty on Rushdie’s head. (The bounty not only remains, it has has been increased.) Riots, bombings and assassinations resulting in the deaths of more than twenty people followed.
In his 1990 book The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah and the West, Daniel Pipes previewed virtually every facet of the present cartoon intifada. In the book’s chapter 10, for example, Pipes addresses “Iran’s shadow in the West”:
The Satanic Verses affair exposed a reluctance among Western governments, writers and booksellers to fight very hard. It seems scarcely believable, but the West, which had so much greater resources than Iran, especially an Iran recovering from almost a decade of war, ran scared of Tehran. How was it that the American, British, French and German governments could be intimidated by a state possessing little more than clearly defined goals and strength of will?
Pipes found two factors that were most critical: the influence of local fundamentalist Muslims and the fear of Iranian retaliation: “Tehran acted with the determination of an extremist, the tactics of a rug merchant, and the flexibility of a guerilla. In brief, it had exactly those qualities most effective for confronting the West.”
Pipes’s familiarity with the issues raised by the cartoon intifada gives his views a special interest. Today’s New York Sun carries Pipes’s column on the subject: “Cartoons and Islamic imperialism.” Pipes writes:
The key issue at stake in the battle over the 12 Danish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad is this: Will the West stand up for its customs and mores, including freedom of speech, or will Muslims impose their way of life on the West? Ultimately, there is no compromise: Westerners will either retain their civilization, including the right to insult and blaspheme, or not.
More specifically, will Westerners accede to a double standard by which Muslims are free to insult Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, while Muhammad, Islam, and Muslims enjoy immunity from insults? Muslims routinely publish cartoons far more offensive than the Danish ones. Are they entitled to dish it out while being insulated from similar indignities?
The deeper issue here, however, is not Muslim hypocrisy but Islamic supremacism. The Danish editor who published the cartoons, Flemming Rose, explained that if Muslims insist “that I, as a non-Muslim, should submit to their taboos…they’re asking for my submission.”
Pipes concludes: “Peoples who would stay free must stand unreservedly with Denmark.”