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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The age of offended-ness?

These days it is almost on a daily basis that we read about somebody being offended by somebody else about something or other. As a Malaysian I really don't know how we have come to be like this. Is it just us or is it the way the world has evolved? This article by Salman Rushdie sheds some light maybe. And of course this can also be deemed offensive to some readers here. Up to you la.

The Booker Prize-winning novelist Salman Rushdie spoke out against a new "culture of offendedness" yesterday, saying that people increasingly "define ourselves by hate".

Speaking to a sellout crowd on the opening day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Midnight's Children author said: "I do think that one of the characteristics of our age is the growth of this culture of offendedness. It has to do with the rise of identity politics, where you're invited to define your identity quite narrowly – you know, Western, Islamic, whatever it might be."
He continued: "Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we're asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?"
His comments came in a week in which internet hatred has topped the agenda. Rushdie has first-hand experience of being a figure of hate after living under a fatwa for a decade after the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988.
He ascribed the new hatred to the fall of Communism and the rise of religious fanaticism, among other things. "Instead of there being one Iron Curtain, there became lots and lots of little enclaves with people fighting to the death about their own little mindset or their own tribalism. And then religious fanaticism happened, which is not only Islamic. In India, there is the rise of Hindu nationalism, and in America the increased power of the Christian church."
Referring to the The Satanic Verses, Rushdie said that he did not believe that a book had the power to offend. "Conservative Muslim leaders had not liked any of my books. So I expected them not to like it. And my view was, 'So what?' It's not compulsory to read a novel. If you don't want to read a book, don't read it. If you start reading a book and you don't like it, you always have the option of shutting it and at this point it loses its capacity to offend you."
He added that many of those involved in protests over the book, in which copies were burned in the streets of Bradford, now regretted it. "One of the few things that I thought was cause for optimism, if you like, was that when it was the 20th anniversary of the Bradford book-burning and all that, British newspapers interviewed a lot of the people who back in the day were involved in organising those things. Everybody that was interviewed regretted it. Some of them regretted because they thought it was tactically bad. That it had backfired and hadn't got them the results that they wanted. Some of them accepted the free speech argument. But what was interesting was that they all said, 'We wouldn't want to do something like that again.'"
The author also talked at length about having dinner with Thomas Pynchon, the world's most famous literary recluse. Rushdie was invited to dine with Pynchon after he wrote a review of the latter's 1990 novel Vineland in The New York Times.
"Thomas Pynchon looks exactly like Thomas Pynchon should. He's very tall and he wears lumberjack shirts and blue jeans." Although the two authors enjoyed "a very long, very affable evening" together, eating and talking until 3am, they have not seen each other since, he said.



A Bad Boy said...


I was puzzled by the behaviour of some so-called Muslims in Malaysia until I came across a comment made by somebody in a blog.

This commentator said that there are so-called Muslims who want people to hate islam.

It appears that these so-called Muslims want to show the world that Islam is an intolerant religion.

For example, when we get stories of a church in England sharing space with Muslims, these so-called Muslims go all out to stir up anger in that Johor surau buisness.

I don't know why these so-called Muslims want people to hate Islam.

Very strange.

Anonymous said...

Seeing the events in Malaysia and elsewhere in the world eg Egypt) I observe that the best Muslims are the ones who live in Muslim-minority countries. Why? They practice Islam in a humble, respectful manner, and they in turn are respected and honored by people of other faiths. However, Muslims in Muslim-dominated countries, eg Middle East, Malaysia etc have some kind of perverted understanding of Islam and end up making a fool of themselves. The same may be said of other religions, I wonder????

Anonymous said...

Has religion made us more sensitive?

Or was it the overzealousness in interpreting religion?

Anonymous said...


I think you are wrong about Malaysians being easily offended. Only very few Malaysians are that way. Most Malaysians are not as easily offended, you see, we have politicians and their cronies who rob the country in broad daylight and take taxpayers' monies and what most Malaysians did is to set up blogs and twitters and have big parties with speeches and sing songs.

You see, most Malaysians have high EQs or maybe they are just really big into S&M.

Anonymous said...

Here is the best song to dedicate to these arse-holes:

Anonymous said...


The mere fact that you had quoted Salman Rushdie has already offended me as you are insensitive to my feelings and have hurt my religion. Get it?

Anonymous said...

PDRM is now brave enough to take on gangsters 01 to 101.

Syawal said...

The Miss World beauty pageant will go ahead in Indonesia next month despite objections from the country’s leading Islamic federation.

Malaysia ought to learn from Indonesia in this aspect.