Speaking against ‘this new age of religious mayhem’, noted writer Salman Rushdie has condemned the ‘decapitating barbarians of ISIS’ and believes that compared to extremism in Christianity and Hinduism, Islam has more of a problem.
Delivering the PEN/Pinter Prize Lecture at the British Library on Thursday evening, Rushdie also condemned “the mangling of language which makes possible the creation of tyranny”, and the ‘jihadi-cool’ language that attracts new recruits to extremism.
“I can’t, as a citizen, avoid speaking of the horror of the world in this new age of religious mayhem, and of the language that conjures it up and justifies it, so that young men, including young Britons, led towards acts of extreme bestiality, believe themselves to be fighting a just war,” he said.
Rushdie added: “This language, which has been dubbed ‘jihadi-cool’, is being heard, more and more, in mosques and on social media, and for some young men its appeal is so great that it persuades hundreds, perhaps thousands of British Muslims to join the decapitating barbarians of ISIS.”
“It’s hard not to conclude that this hate-filled religious rhetoric, pouring from the mouths of ruthless fanatics into the ears of angry young men, has become the most dangerous new weapon in the world today”.
Stating that religions deserved scrutiny, he noted that Christian extremists in the United States attacked women’s liberties and gay rights in language they claimed came from God, while “Hindu extremists in India today are launching an assault on free expression and trying, literally, to rewrite history, proposing the alteration of school textbooks to serve their narrow saffron dogmatism”.
However, he added: “But the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam, and much of it has its roots in the ideological language of blood and war emanating from the Salafist movement within Islam, globally backed by Saudi Arabia.”
The PEN/Pinter Prize is given to a British writer who shares it with an international writer active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety. Rushdie chose Syrian journalist, lawyer and human rights defender Mazen Darwish.