August 13, 2022 -Durt Fibo

Salman Rushdie, the writer who was stabbed yesterday while beginning a speech on supporting writers and artists in exile –specifically Ukrainians– is out of surgery but might die of his wounds or shock. He is only breathing because of a ventilator, and his publicist has said that if he survives, he might lose an eye, that the nerves in his arm are severed, and that his liver was gravely damaged. Rushdie’s life or death is now the defining embodiment of freedom. Freedom to create in a world of nihilists. Freedom to think in a world of ignoramuses.

This attempted murder repeats what we have seen happen to far too many writers, journalists, artists and regular citizens every day. But the peoples’ determined nihilism and ignorance are cultivated by the ones who run and redesign the societies they blossom in. Due to the structural weaknesses of modern civilization, those leaders have such an unrestrained, self-gorging heft that humanity has become resigned to being crushed beneath every disaster that topples upon them.

Fatalism leads to indolence. Social indolence and mental paralysis. Decisions are made for one; responsibility is someone else’s. Eventually individuals become powerless, as a king, a religious chieftain, a demagogue, or a militia leader declare themselves divinely appointed. The most extreme fatalism and powerlessness leave people only a few voluntary mechanisms: the extraneous hobby of imagining connections where none exist in reality, and the freedom to exercise aggression and violence upon other people.

This toxic conflation is now spreading its fumes through the Iranian media as people begin responding to the attempted murder of Rushdie. While most headlines were gloating, statements of ordinary citizens in Tehran willing to speak to the Associated Press proved the above points: One –Mahshid Barati– said: “I feel those who did it are trying to isolate Iran. This will negatively affect relations with many – even Russia and China.” –Here we see the miasma twisting into the shape of a phantasmagorical conspiracy in which anyone but Iran and its fatwa is guilty of causing problems.

Mohammad Mahdi Movaghar said he had “good feeling” on hearing the news.

Reza Amiri told AP: “I don’t know Salman Rushdie, but I am happy to hear that he was attacked since he insulted Islam. This is the fate for anybody who insults sanctities.”

These are, of course, people who have never read Rushdie’s book. It is difficult to read a book one cannot find for sale or in any library. One book which is and has long been available in Iran (and I found it displayed for sale all across North Africa and the Middle East) is Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. The very word “Aryan” comes from aryia -the Indo-Iranian term inhabitants of the Iranian Plateau called themselves. More concretely, “Aryan” as used to describe the Persian race was employed in the 5th century BC inscription of the Achaemenian king Darius (Dariush), and is also found in Herodotus’ “The Histories” which came from that same era.

The public stance of the Nazi-Party towards Iran was that “there is no doubt that the Iranian, as an Aryan is racially kindred (artverwandt) with the Germans”. The Nazis ruled that Iranians were exempt from the Nuremberg racial Law. A large number of Iranians moved to Germany for education, political training, or worse. One well known visitor was Davud Monshizadeh, the founder of the Iranian Nazi Party. Monshizadeh relocated to Germany in 1937, became a member of the SS, and fought on the Nazi side during the Battle of Berlin. Throughout WWII, Germany remained Iran’s biggest trade partner, accounting for some 50% of Iran’s total foreign trade.

Yesterday I mentioned my 1989 suggestion that PEN should have immediately offered an equal bounty, $6 million, for Khomeini’s head in response to the Supreme Leader’s $6 million fatwa demanding the murder of Rushdie. I should clarify that I meant it then. I meant it as a moral gesture, though, not a call to act. But the logic still holds; nobody should ever be put in a position where they feel that they have to return any threat. Yet this simple response could’ve ended the dangerous situation instantly; Khomeini might’ve rescinded the fatwa…it has been done plenty of times in other cases. Thinking of PEN as a ‘union’, that move would’ve said ‘we will stand by our kind’, or ‘two can play at that game.’ Thinking of PEN as analogous to a nation, such as present-day Ukraine for example, the statement could’ve been as effective as Tito’s famous note to Stalin: “Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle (…) If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.” There were no further Russian attempts on Tito’s life after that.