Anti-racism, liberalism and class in <i>The Satanic Verses</i> and the Rushdie affair

Ahmed Rehana

in Writing British Muslims

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2015 | ISBN: 9780719087400
Published online January 2016 | e-ISBN: 9781781708972 | DOI:
Anti-racism, liberalism and class in The Satanic Verses and the Rushdie affair

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This chapter provides a crucial context to the Britain-based controversy surrounding the publication of Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, establishing the importance of a dialectical understanding of race, class and religious affiliation and grounding the protests in their material conditions. It reads the novel alongside and against the dispute that it generated: an engagement with the social context illuminates the presence of ideological contradictions within the novel which in turn shed light on the complexities and contradictions of multicultural politics in 1980s Britain. Focusing primarily on Rushdie’s representations of the fictional area ‘Brickhall’ in London, the chapter argues that the oppositional anti-racism that underpins the representation of the largely Muslim community’s struggle against the racism of Thatcher’s Britain is in tension with the endorsement of secular individualism against religious communalism that pervades the novel. The chapter reveals the strategies by which the novel attempts to manage and resolve this tension which is embedded within it and which emerged in the form of protests and book-burnings soon after its publication.

Keywords: Salman Rushdie; Rushdie affair; The Satanic Verses; freedom of expression; controversy; offence; anti-racism; multicultural politics; secular individualism; religious communalism

Chapter.  11970 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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