December 3, 2010
Inaugural Blog Tour: From Fatwa To Jihad
by Paul Oliver
More and more, we find ourselves in awe of the quality, depth and variety of places on the internet talking about books. Thus, we’ve decided to take a year-end look at how those places talked about our titles. (Read the kickoff.) The point is to highlight not only the titles we proudly published in 2010, but also some of the great writing about those titles from around the internet. In some cases the writing may only mention our book. In these instances the posts would of course have to be extraordinary.
From Fatwa To Jihad is one of the quirkier titles we’ve published in recently. Not because of its content or because of the author. I call it quirky because it seems like it should have been published twenty years ago. On the surface it resembles a current affairs book breaking down a situation that most would consider old news.
But Kenan Malik‘s book isn’t really any of those things. It is in many ways a shockingly current book. If someone told you that Salman Rushdie‘s scandalous novel, The Satanic Verses, was the anvil on which a defunct radical Islam forged a successful identity for itself you would probably think them guilty of hyperbole or, worse still, fashioning a slippery slope. Which is to say Kenan Malik’s book is a startling hybrid book of journalism, history and political theory.
Alas, in the realm of the blog such rare coinage is not always paid back equally.
Among the blogs I encountered for the Melville House edition of Malik’s book I found many strange phenomena. Not the least of which was the demon equation. A blog dedicated to tracking angels of the fallen ilk. No. This is not magical realism. Neither is this a reference to the seraphic transformations of Gibreel Farishta or Salahoodin Chamcha. This is real, um, well in one sense of the word.
A sampling might clear this up. This one comes courtesy of a post titled “Reptilians are really DEMONS.”
I was walking though a mall with a friend and as we were walking this younger male, probably in his early 20s was angrily rushing past us. We had to move aside because he was so focused on what was going on in his head that it was like he did not even see us. Well, Because of this, I noticed his face and his eyes looked reptilian LARGEER then normal, the slit down the middle and like a burnt yellow in color..and boy were they ANGRY EYES! A few weeks later, I had saw David Icke’s book and picked it up cuz it was on topic with what I saw.
After reading parts of the book I realized that the book is all FEAR BASED, and returned the book to the store. With this, I truly believe that the reptilians are a type of Demons…I know the eyes I saw, were demons. The guy at the mall was a man being possessed, if only for a few minutes. but the reason I am writing is because I don’t like how David Icke is using fear to attract demons to OTHERS.
I’m a David Icke fan in the same sense that I’m a SciFi channel fan or in the way that I quietly hope that someone discovers bigfoot, or more preferably, a really big sea monster. But I am also aware that all of that is fiction and my love of it is tinged with cynicism.
Except the sea monster. That one I’m actually counting on, just don’t ask me for what reasons.
So what does this all have to do with Kenan Malik’s nuanced political history of the “Rushdie affair”? Our demonologist posted, in its entirety, Andrew Anthony‘s review of From Fatwa To Jihad for the Guardian. Cut paste post. And this brings me to the real comment here: Blogs are currently filling a role in the emerging e-text age that pamphlets did in the early days of the printing press. Namely that quick, cheap and accessible can lead to incredibly important publications released with alarming exigence and then, in turn, they can also be used for something like this: An entire article lifted from a publication and posted on a blog about demon hunting.
So not all is fair in the land of the blog. That’s why so many small blogs have a tough time earning the trust of readers. When there’s a big site like Guernica reviewing From Fatwa To Jihad and a strange little blog ripping off mainstream journalism about the same title, the average reader will simply be turned off to the possibility that good commentary can be found on small blogs. That said it’s now time for the self-aggrandizing.
The blog I chose today is one quite familiar to me, being that I am its architect: The Devil’s Accountant . Oh boy. Really, really I do not believe in angels or demons. Or the Devil or devils. It’s just a conceit.
The format is simple. Every Monday (with luck and scheduling on my side) I do a post I call “Front List/Back List” in which I review a new release and an older title. The older title either relates to the new release or corresponds to a current event, movie or cultural situation.
In the case of my review of From Fatwa To Jihad I paired it with Leonard Levy‘s sprawling history of verbal offense against the sacred, which is appropriately titled Blasphemy.
All that said I’d like to leave you with two quotes I put together to open my piece on Malik’s book. In some ways they say it all:
So he was sentenced to be beheaded, within the hour, and as soldiers manhandled him out of the tent towards the killing ground, he shouted over his shoulder: ‘Whores and writers, Mahound. We are the people you can’t forgive.’
Mahound replied, ‘Writers and whores. I see no differences here.’
–Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses
“In the name of God the Almighty. We belong to God and to Him we shall return. I would like to inform all intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book Satanic Verses, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an, and those publishers who were aware of its contents, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, where they find them, so that no one will dare to insult the Islamic sanctity. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God-willing.”
Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.