PAKISTAN MOB STORMS U.S. CULTURAL CENTER -POLICE OPEN FIRE Islamabad, Pakistan- Police ope
PAKISTAN MOB STORMS U.S. CULTURAL CENTER -POLICE OPEN FIRE
Islamabad, Pakistan- Police opened fire on thousands of stone-throwing Moslems
who stormed the American cultural center yesterday, demanding that the novel
"The Satanic Verses" be banned.
Five demonstartors were killed and at least 50 injured as the center of
Pakistan's capital was turned into a battlefield.
The police, failing to disperse the crowd with tear gas, opened fire on
the demonstrators. two of whom had climbed onto the roof of the center and
pulled down the American flag.
The violence was a reminder of the depth of radical Islamic fervor in a
country that is trying to make a transition to democracy.
It was in Islamabad in November 1979 that an Islamic mob, fired by a
false report of American complicity in the siezure of the Great Mosque in the
holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, sacked the U.S. Embassy, leaving four people
Moslem religious leaders, then as now, were at the forefront of the
Yesterday's demonstration was provoked by the publication in the United
States of "The Satanic Verses" by Salman Rushdie. The book was banned here
Last week, the Pakistani National Assembly voted unanimously to condemn
the book and its author as "derogatory to the holy prophet and Islamic
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's justice minister supported the
condemnation, which also called on the government to urge Great Britain and
the United States to stop publication of the work, a fantasy that involves
characters identifiable from Moslem history.
Rushdie, who was born into a Moslem family in Bombay, now lives in
London, where the book was first published. India has also banned it.
Opposition to the book is intense in Pakistan, even among people most
Westerners would describe as liberal until Islamic sensinilities come into the
discussion. "The Satanic Verses" is almost universally regarded as
The novel includes two hallucinatory chapters that involve a puzzling
prophet who is and is not Mohammed. The book is considered insulting and
blasphemous by many Moslems.
The London newspaper the Guardian quoted Rushdie as saying that he was
"very upset" over the violence and that the leaders of Pakistan's religious
parties are whipping up emotion.
"The thing that is most disturbing is that they are talking about a book
that doesn't exist," said the author, who maintains that "The Satanic Verses"
is a fictional parable about good and evil and was not meant to be
anti-religious. "The book that is worth killing people for...is not the book
that I wrote."
"The people who demonstrated in Pakistan and who were killed haven't
actually read the book because it isn't on sale there."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank