Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday quotes: Ricky Gervais, Salman Rushdie and Cat Stevens

Byter Andrew said to me "Someone once commented that 'Offence is taken, not given'." It made a lot of sense so I looked it up. I was surprised that the only person I could find it attributed to was Ricky Gervais, I would have thought it was a lot older. As usual with looking into the background of matters I became sidetracked by interesting detours. Here are a couple of them. . . 

"Offense is taken, not given." 

- Ricky Gervais, prior to his hosting the 2012 Golden Globes, commenting on criticism of his digs at celebrities when hosting of the 2011 awards 

Ricky Dene Gervais (1961 - ) is an English comedian, actor, director, producer, musician, writer, and former radio presenter. He has hosted the Golden Globes in 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

Gervais expressed a similar comment to the above, and elaborated his views, in the following: 
"A comedian's job isn't just to make people laugh, it's to make them think. If there's a meaning to it, and a substance and a bit of a depth, then you're doing something. Now, here's the rub: offence, is never given, its taken. If you're not offended by something, then there was no offence, it's as simple as that. If you are offended by something, walk away. I'm offended by things all the time but I haven't got the right not to be offended, and remember this: just because someone is offended it doesn't mean they're right." 
One person who has suffered the extreme consequences of offence being taken is Salman Rushdie.

Rusdie commented in September 2012: 
"Nobody has the right to not be offended. That right doesn't exist in any declaration I have ever read. If you are offended it is your problem, and frankly lots of things offend lots of people.  
"I can walk into a bookshop and point out a number of books that I find very unattractive in what they say. But it doesn't occur to me to burn the bookshop down. If you don't like a book, read another book. If you start reading a book and you decide you don't like it, nobody is telling you to finish it.  
"To read a 600-page novel and then say that it has deeply offended you: well, you have done a lot of work to be offended.” 
Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie (1947 - ) is a British Indian novelist and essayist whose fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988) provoked protests from Muslims in several countries, often violent and resulting in deaths and the burning of book stores selling the book. It also resulted in a fatwa being issued by Ayatollah Khomeini the Supreme Leader of Iran, in 1989. A bounty was offered for Rushdie’s death and the fatwa resulted in the UK breaking diplomatic relations with Iran in 1989. 

In 1998, as a precondition to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Britain, the Iranian government, then headed by Mohammad Khatami, gave a public commitment that it would "neither support nor hinder assassination operations on Rushdie." Hardliners in Iran have continued to reaffirm the death sentence. In early 2005, Khomeini's fatwa was reaffirmed by Iran's current spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message to Muslim pilgrims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Additionally, the Revolutionary Guards declared that the death sentence on him is still valid. Iran rejected requests to withdraw the fatwa on the basis that only the person who issued it may withdraw it, and the person who issued it – Ayatollah Khomeini – has been dead since 1989. Rushdie has reported that he still receives a "sort of Valentine’s card" from Iran each year on 14 February letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him. He said, "It's reached the point where it's a piece of rhetoric rather than a real threat." Despite the threats on Rushdie, he publicly said that his family had never been threatened and that his mother (who lived in Pakistan during the later years of her life) even received outpourings of support. 

By the way: 

In 1989, one week after the fatwa had been issued against Rushdie, former recording star and convert to Islam, Cat Stevens, addressed students at Kingston University in London. Stevens had converted to Islam in 1977 and had changed his name to Yusuf Islam.  Asked about the fatwa on Rushdie he stated “He must be killed. The Qur'an makes it clear - if someone defames the prophet, then he must die." Following critical reaction Yusuf released a statement saying that he was not personally encouraging anybody to be a vigilante and that he was only stating that blasphemy is a capital offense according to the Qu’ran.

Two months later on the BBC show Hypotheticals he commented that he thought Rushdie deserved to die. Asked whether he would be the executioner, he stated no, “unless we were in an Islamic state and I was ordered by a judge or by the authority to carry out such an act - perhaps, yes.” 

Following further criticism, Yusuf backed away from his comments, saying that he had been joking. He commented that 
“I foolishly made light of certain provocative questions. When asked what I’d do if Salman Rushdie entered a restaurant in which I was eating, I said, ‘I would probably call up Ayatollah Khomeini’; and, rather than go to a demonstration to burn an effigy of the author, I jokingly said I would have preferred that it'd be the ‘real thing’.” 
He also commented that, in fairness, his further comments on the TV show should also be noted:
“At the end of the debate he asked me to imagine if Salman Rushdie was taken to court in Britain and the jury found him ‘not guilty’ of any crime – blasphemy or otherwise – and dismissed the case, what I would do. I clearly stated that I would have to accept the decision and fully abide by the law! And that was no joke.” 
In a 2000 Rolling Stone interview, Yusuf stated: 
I'm very sad that this seems to be the No. 1 question people want to discuss. I had nothing to do with the issue other than what the media created. I was innocently drawn into the whole controversy. So, after many years, I'm glad at least now that I have been given the opportunity to explain to the public and fans my side of the story in my own words. At a lecture, back in 1989, I was asked a question about blasphemy according to Islamic Law, I simply repeated the legal view according to my limited knowledge of the Scriptural texts, based directly on historical commentaries of the Qur'an. The next day the newspaper headlines read, "Cat Says, Kill Rushdie." I was abhorred, but what could I do? I was a new Muslim. If you ask a Bible student to quote the legal punishment of a person who commits blasphemy in the Bible, he would be dishonest if he didn't mention Leviticus 24:16.”

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