It’s been a whole fifteen seconds since the last Lit Feud, so I guess it’s time for another one. In this corner, we have Ziauddin Sardar, author and critic, who, in his review of Anthony McRoy’s book, From Rushdie to 7/7 for The Independent writes:
But occasionally [McRoy] draws bizarre conclusions from the plethora of material he quotes. For example, he suggests I labelled Rushdie as a “brown sahib” because I feared that the new generation of Muslims would become “contaminated” with “infidel ideas”. This is laughably absurd. The “brown sahib” is a recognisable sociological type on the Subcontinent: an uncritical Anglophile. My point was that Muslims should not be surprised by what Rushdie had done. A brown sahib, somewhere, sometime, was bound to do just that.
In the other corner, we have Salman Rushdie, who was understandably incensed at being characterized in this way, and fired off a letter to the editor:
Sir: I have not yet read Anthony McRoy’s book From Rushdie to 7/7, but Ziauddin Sardar’s review of it (28 April) is so parti pris as to demand some sort of reply. There is much in this review that is, to use terms of which Sardar himself is fond, “skewed”, “ludicrous” and “half-baked”.
His assertion that “jihad is never offensive” will come as a surprise to those of us who live in the real world, not the ideological fantasy-universe he prefers, in which language loses its meaning, aggression becomes “defence”, and aggressors become victims. His claim that “all Muslims see themselves as part of the ummah” could have been uttered by a dedicated clash-of-civilisations hawk, and blithely ignores the profound divisions, political, intellectual, tribal, nationalist and theological, within the Muslim world, and the struggles of genuinely courageous Muslim writers and intellectuals against the repressive Islam that is so much in the ascendant everywhere in that world.
As for his cheap shots at me for being a “brown Sahib”, something I have never been called, to my knowledge, by anyone in India, where, Sardar tells us, it is a “recognisable sociological type”, I wonder if you would so readily publish an attack on a well-known black writer which used the term “Uncle Tom”?
Sardar describes me, bizarrely, as an “uncritical Anglophile”, which suggests that it is he, not Mr McRoy, who “needs to read much more widely”. By the immoderation of his tone and his argument, he goes some way to proving McRoy’s point that “Islamic radicalism has become mainstream”, which was not, presumably, his intention.
Now it looks at though Sardar wants to have another go at it, but unfortunately his column at the New Stateman is hidden
behind a subscription wall. Thanks to reader H. for sending me the piece–which turns out to be a rather nasty and grossly unfair characterization of Salman Rushdie. Among Sardar’s claims, for instance, is the assertion that Rushdie has nothing but “contempt” for “cultures of the subcontinent” and that he’s no different than V.S. Naipaul. It sounds to me like someone needs to read Imaginary Homelands.