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March 07, 1989 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-03-07

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a

OPINION

Page 4

Tuesday, March 7, 1989

The Michigan Daily

Rushdie

perpetuates

stereotypes

By Muzammil Ahmed
"Salman Rushdie must die." Actually,
this statement is a more passionate way of
saying that Rushdie's book, Satanic
Verses, should not be published. There are
several reasons why Muslims like myself
might feel this way.
First, Salman Rushdie assaults our
values, our way of life, in short, our
whole religion and everything related to it.
Let's gauge the depth of the attack. To
begin with, he explicitly addresses the
prophet of Islam, Muhammad, as
Mahound, a medieval Crusader term
meaning devil; the companions of the
Prophet are described as "fucking clowns"
and "goons"; these companions are also
described individually: "enormous black
conster" is the description for one
Ethiopian companion; the wives of the
Prophet- known to the Muslims as the
Mothers of the Believers- are
characterized as whores; outrageous
stipulations are presented as legitimate
Islamic law; and so on.
Many scholars and writers have
criticized Islam before, and they still do so
today. Muslims have no problem with
this, and the criticisms have every right to
continue. But Salman Rushdie doesn't
criticize, he misrepresents and maliciously
Muzammil Ahmed is a former Opinion
Page editor

maligns. He takes the early Islamic period
and presents an antithesis of it,
presumably exercising freedom of speech.
But freedom of speech is bounded by
higher values. That is why there are libel
laws in the United States. That is why the
University has an anti-harassment policy.
Speech which harasses, maliciously
slanders, or discriminates against a group
of people based on sex, color, race,
religion, etc. must be regulated.. Because
Rushdie's book consists of lies and slander
which have the effect of harassing the
Muslim community, it should not be sold
by mainstream bookstores nor published
by mainstream publishers.
Second, Rushdie's book does damage to
Muslims worldwide, particularly to the 5-
6 million in the United States. The media
has created horrendous stereotypes of
Muslims which results in hostility
towards Muslims living here. The most
widespread stereotype is that of a terrorist
who hijacks planes, boats, buses, and
anything else that moves. The media
shows us images of Muslims as
predominantly Arab, predominantly
violent, predominantly barbarian, and
predominantly evil. Without alternate
images, people adopt these images as
reality, and treat Muslims as dangerous,
stupid, deceitful, etc.
Salman Rushdie just adds to and
reinforces these stereotypes. For example,
when Rushdie describes how supposed
sexual favors of the Prophets' wives kept
Muslim men in line, he is merely

reinforcing the idea that Muslim males
are dirty old men whose barbaric and
animal nature prevents pursuits and goals
much higher than simple sexual
fulfillment. This theme is recurrent in the
media through its focus on harems and
polygamy in the Muslim world. Rather
than remove stereotypes, Rushdie
perpetuates them with the effect that
animosity towards Muslims increases in
this country and abroad.

tradition. When discussing Islamic
customs, he makes value judgements
based on Western norms. For e.g., the
Muslims' "obsession with water makes
them freakish." Rushdie uses the standards
of the West to criticize something of the
"orient," with the implicit assumption
that the former is better than the latter.
As for Viking and Penguin, the
publishers of the book: they are acting as
accomplices to Rushdie's crimes. In

'Because Rushdie's book consists of lies and slander
which have the effect of harassing the Muslim commu-
nity, it should not be sold by mainstream bookstores nor
published by mainstream publishers.'

publishers and writers will think twice
when publishing or writing a book
harassing Muslims in the future.
Many people agree that the book would
only be insensitive if it was taken as non-
fiction. But since the book is fiction, and
since most of the offensive parts occur in
dream sequences, Muslims shouldn't be
hyperventilating. This is also the tune
Rushdie is now singing: "[The book] isn't
actually about Islam." A few months
earlier, though, Rushdie was saying, "[It]
is a serious attempt to write about religion
and revelation from the point of view of a
secular person." (9/18/88 Sunday) or
"Actually, one of my major themes is
religion... I have talked about [Islam,
which] I knew the most about." (9/15/88
India Today). Therefore the book is a
libelous attack on Islam, though Rushdie
realizes now that this is nothing to
advertise.
Many people will probably read Satanic
Verses just-because of the ruckus raised
over it. However, to counter the
misinformationwandstereotypes the book
contains, readers should also read other
books which can clear up some of the
myths- Towards an Understanding of
[slam by SayyidnAla Maududi, for
example. The Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim
uproar is not a senseless demonstration of
intolerance, but an expression of anger at
Penguin and Rushdie for disregarding the
sensitivities of Muslims. We would hope
that others also see the Muslim
perspective, and condemn the publisher
and writer for their insensitvity.

Third, Salman Rushdie is a blatant
example of Western orientalism.
Orientalism is the study of the Eastern
world. It is a "science" based on Western
military, economic and political
domination of the East. The West studied
the "orient" with a patronizing attitude
that "oriental" cultures and societies were
all exotic, primitive, and often unoriginal.
This Western ethnocentric and sometimes
racist attitude was reflected in the study of
Islam, in which Islam was consequently
belittled, distorted and misrepresented.
Rushdie follows in this orientalist

addition, they have made a conscious
decision to be insensitive to Muslims. All
publishers have the right to decide what to
publish. Not many, however, would print
Holocaust "revisionist" literature or books
"proving" Blacks are an inferior race
because mainstream publishers wouldn't
want to be considered insensitive to Jews
and Blacks. The fact that a publisher feels
it's okay to be insensitive to Muslims
means either: 1) Muslim-bashing is
socially acceptable or 2) Muslims are
believed too weak too respond. By making
a strong statement now, we hope that

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
420 Maynard St.
Vol. IC, No. 106 Ann Arbor. MI 48109
Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.

I-

Letters to the editor

U.S. to blame for refugee problem

Accept responsibility

IN A MOVE that should disturb any-
one concerned about the plight of Cen-
tral Americans, the U.S. Immigration
and Naturalization Service (I.N.S.) re-
cently began detaining Central Ameri-
can refugees in squalid camps outside
of Harlingen, Texas. The conditions
there can only be characterized as in-
humane. The refugees, many of whom
are children, live in tents and aban-
doned buildings. Legal assistance is
unobtainable due to the shortage of
immigration lawyers.
The I.N.S. presumes that Central
American refugees have no legitimate
basis for immigrating, and is using the
detention centers as a tool for quickly
adjudicating that they are here illegally
so that they can be shipped back to the
oppressive conditions from which they
fled. In the first week of the new pro-
gram, only ten of 352 applicants were
accepted.
This is simply no way to treat our
fellow human beings who are fleeing
the political horrors sweeping Central
America, much of it a result of U.S.
policy in the region.
Political oppression, including death
squad killings, lies behind the influx of
Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees
into the U.S.. Dissidents in these
countries are routinely kidnapped,tor-
tured and murdered by U.S.-backed
regimes. The civil war in El Salvador
has already taken over 70,000 lives,
most of them civilian victims of mili-
tary bombings and government
sponsored death squads. The political
oppression in Guatemala is just as
severe, with close to 200,000 civilians
murdered by the government since a
Central Intelligence Agency sponsored
coup in 1954.
The U.S. cannot admit there is
political repression in El Salvador and
Guatemala because it would give lie to
the claim that those countries are
democracies.
C' a n pa ., a1 it - a C..n a n rom

status. In mid-1986, in a political move
to increase immigration from Nicaragua
to prove how repressive the
Nicaraguan government is, then attor-
ney-general Edwin Meese ordered the
I.N.S. to relax immigration rules for
people from Nicaragua. Until now,
Nicaraguan refugees were automati-
cally deemed "political" refugees, even
though there has been no substantial
political oppression in Nicaragua. The
praise that the most recent Nicaraguan
elections received from international
observers, such as the British parlia-
mentary delegation, attests to the fair-
ness and openness of their political
system. Indeed, Nicaraguan refugees
are escaping the crisis of hunger and
poverty there that has resulted from
eight years of the U.S.-sponsored
Contra War and economic embargo.
The flip side of the political oppres-
sion in the region is the economic in-
justice there. Poverty and hunger have
swelled in Central America as a result
of the region's subordinate position in
the international economic order. Ex-
port agriculture, not subsistence crops,
are dominant in Central America.
Throughout this century, peasants have
been kicked off their land so that U.S.-
based corporations and rich local land-
lords can grow more coffee, bananas,
etc. for export. Multinationals then ex-
ploit the landless peasantry as a source
of cheap labor, while the landlords use
their export earnings for conspicuous
consumption. Those inclined to resist
the established order will find a U.S.-
armed death squad ready to persuade
them to do otherwise.
The U.S. is partly to blame for the
repression in El Salvador and
Guatemala and for Nicaragua's ruined
economy, the reasons why so many
Central Americans are seeking to im-
migrate. The U.S. has no legitimate
basis for denying asylum to people on
the rnnnlc tnt tr-v n, "m-rel

Daily anti-
Jewish
To the Daily:
On February 21, 1989, ap-
proximately 200 students
protested the Daily's Opinion
page policy for selection of
editorials, right-side articles
and letters. The main thrust of
the protest was that the Daily
had overstepped the bounds of
anti-Israelism into the realm of
anti-Judaism. The students
were not protesting the anti-Is-
raelism, only the anti-Judaism.
By February 22, 1989, it
was clear that the editors of the
Daily had missed the point.
How sad. The Opinion Page
Editor, Amy Harmon, was
quoted in the Daily as saying,
"the distinction people
[protesters] are failing to make
is the difference between Ju-
daism and Zionism". In fact,
it is Harmon, and the rest of
the Op-Ed staff, who should be
more careful in making this
sometimes-delicate distinction.
In the very recent past, they
have not been careful enough.
On November 1, 1988, an
editorial entitled "Kahane Ban
Token" appeared on the Op-Ed
page. The editorial claims
that "the original premise of
Zionism is that Jews and non-
Jews are incapable of living
together". This simply is not
the case. The original premise
of Zionism is the foundation of
a Jewish homeland, which
could be a haven for persecuted
Jews. Zionism has evolved
into the maintenance of such a
homeland. The Jews' desire for
a homeland is not at all unlike
the Palestinians' desire for a
homeland. The two groups are
simply at different stages in
their quests. The Daily justi-
fies the Palestinians' desire for
a separate homeland, while
they question the existence of
the Jewish homeland. This is
not simply anti-Israelism; this
is anti-Judaism.
OnJanuary 23, 1989, an
editorial entitled "Ethiopians
Exploited" appeared on the Op-
Ed page. The editorial com-
pletely discounted the humani-
tarian efforts of the Israeli
government. The Israelis, ac-
cording to the editorial, were
not saving the lives of suffer-
ing human beings, but were

The Daily, as well as any
individual, has the right to
print criticism of the. Israeli
government any time it
wishes. The Daily need not
alter its opinions about the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but
it cannot interject anti-Jewish
rhetoric. All criticism should
remain in the political realm.
._Avi Friedman
Feb. 22
Daily uses
double.
standard
To The Daily:
In recent days, the editorial
board of the Daily has come
under fire for being anti-Jewish
in its editorials on Israel.
Usually I am quick to defend
the Daily, as I generally agree
with its editorial stance on
most issues. However of late,
the Daily has become
hypocritical and unfair.
I too oppose the current
policies of the Israeli govern-
ment. As a Jew, I am saddened
to see Israeli soldiers beating
children and by the oppressive
nature of the occupation.
The Daily in its critique of
the Israeli government has
committed two errors. First,
the Daily has not differentiated
between the policies of the Is-
raeli government and the poli-
cies of all Jews. The Israeli
policies are just that-govern-
ment policies-and not a re-
flection of the opinion of Jews
as a whole. In fact, the current
Israeli government was elected
by a plurality of Israeli citi-
zens, not a majority. Jews in
both Israel and America natu-
rally come down on both sides
of the issue, some supporting
it, some opposed.
The Daily errs in another
more fundamental way when it
equates Zionism with racism.
Zionism is simply the support
of a Jewish state and a concern
for Jews worldwide. Just as
Palestinians are concerned
about other Palestinians , Jews
naturally tend to be concerned
with other Jews. Is support for
a Palestinian homeland Pales-
tinian racism? I think not.
The fact is that people natu-
rally concern themselves with
issues that affect them and

tinian situation.
-Jonathan Selbin
February 22
Editorials
alienate
readers
To the Daily:
Your editorial (Daily
2/14/89) regarding the tragedy
of Pan Am Flight 103 pro-
voked both my curiosity and
animosity. It exemplifies the
Opinion staff's radical and un-
constructive attempts of effect-
ing change..
Your goal of peace in the
Middle East is laudable, but
questionable because you are
incapable of making any con-
ciliatory gestures to bring the
Israelis and Palestinians to-
gether. Your constant attacks
on Zionism lead me to believe
that there is no place for Israel
in your conception of a peace-
ful Middle East.
Your goal of fighting racism
is also laudable. But on Martin
Luther King, Jr. Day, instead
of fighting racism by en-
couraging students to attend
events, you printed three edito-
rials criticizing the University
Administration for failing to
make strides to end campus
racism. Your "us versus
THEM" mentality is so con-
frontational that your readers
just stop listening.
You also brush aside reader
criticism because only you, the
all-knowing Opinion Page
staff, possess the "proper"
views. If, as you claim, the
networks and the major news-
papers in this country are not
objective but rather feed us the
government/corporate line,
then where do you find your
information?
Please tell the University
Community what sources you
rely upon to make the utterly
outrageous claim that 1) Israel
may have been involved in the
Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy,
and that 2) Possible3Israeli in-
volvement explains the cancel-
lation of reservations by a
South African government of-
ficial and "a group of Hasidic
Jews."
You lose all credibility in
your defense of Ahmed Jibril
and the subtle praise you offer
him and his Qroun for an action

by the Opinion Page staff and a
sharp rise in narrow-minded
condemnations of what you
believe to be wrong. A change
needs to come now, for in your
quest to move society forward,
you are leaving the majority of
your readers behind.
-Ted Deutch
February 16
Pres.
deeply
concerned

To the Daily:

1

6

I am deeply concerned by the
recent editorials and new stories
in the Michigan Daily that
have widely been regarded as
anti-Semitic.
The University of Michigan
is proud to have a student
newspaper whose masthead can
proclaim a 99-year tradition of
independence. With that inde-
pendence, however, comes the
traditional responsibility of the
press in a free society to report
the news accurately and thor-
oughly. At times many of us
may have disagreed with par-
ticular editorial positions, but
we have always respected the
Daily's right to express its
views.

a0

A university should be a
place of enlightened political
debate, and there is of course a
fundamental distinction be-
tween criticism of Israel and
anti-Semitism. However, re-
cent incidents have made me
feel it is important to state
once again that racism, anti-
Semitism, and all other forms
of bigotry have no place at the
University of Michigan, or
anywhere else. Words, as well
as actions, often have unin-
tended effects, and it behooves
all of us to be particularly sen-
sitive to the potential interpre-
tations of expressions of our
views and values.
I was heartened that the out-
come of the recent protest of
the Daily's stance was an
agreement that the editors
would meet with a group of the
concerned students. I hope this
meeting will lead to enhanced
ii.di-,.~nnf;na and z i-n it

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