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‘How much does it cost for reason to tell the truth?' Salman Rushdie and his Confessional Critics

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Abstract:

The representation of Rushdie's The Satanic Verses by confessional postcolonial critics is based on a reading that asserts one truth over the rest. I focus in particular on commentaries by two influential postcolonial confessional Muslim reviewers in Britain: Ahmed Akbar and Ziauddin Sardar. Their readings are critically assessed by simultaneously exploring the views of secular postcolonial critics and Muslim modernists who read Islam outside the conceptual framework of orthodoxy, especially Mohammad Arkoun and Abdefatah Kilito. I examine the way in which confessional postcolonial critics have appropriated religious rationalism along with postcolonial vocabulary. In my last section I discuss the ethical limitations of the confessional critics' readings of The Satanic Verses. In the light of Bataille's theory of the relation between sacrifice and divine justice as well as Derrida's reflections on religion, I suggest that the dismissal of Rushdie's fiction by such eminent commentators is localisable not only in the perception of metaphysics as origin, but also in a strategic reconstruction of an unthematisable sphere of al‐Fitra; that is, the scholar's actual or imagined birth‐in‐Islam: his experience of circumcision and absolute dependence on faith.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14735780500314257

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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