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The Rushdie Affair
The Novel, the Ayatollah, and the West

by Daniel Pipes
1st edition: New York: Birch Lane, 1990
Paperback edition: New Delhi: Voice of India, 1998
2nd edition: Transaction Books, 2003

This account explains the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses. Following the novel's publication in London in 1988, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued an edict condemning the author and his publishers to death for blasphemy. Part I "focuses on two texts, The Satanic Verses and Ayatollah Khomeini's edict, and attempts to explain why the one led to the other. ... Part II surveys the responses to the texts, from conspiracy theories in Iran to petitions in the United States, then considers the implications of this controversy. Two issues receive special attention: the ... problem of censorship ... [and the] questions raised by millions of Muslims living in the West."

Read an article summarizing The Rushdie Affair's argument
Read a section from The Rushdie Affair about other anti-Islamic writings
Read the conclusion from The Rushdie Affair
Read selected parts of The Rushdie Affair on Google Books
Read a news article about The Rushdie Affair

2nd edition., with an Afterword by Koenraad Elst:

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Paperback edition: IndiaClub.com


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Critics on The Rushdie Affair

"A well-reasoned, all-inclusive weighing of the edict for the assassination of Salman Rushdie for his "blasphemous" novel, The Satanic Verses. [Pipes] is nothing if not a legal scholar, and here he weighs the pros and cons of Rushdie's act and Muslim ire down to the finest feather's-weight of right and wrong... Does Pipes himself - writing here for an extremely sober audience - have a hidden agenda in his study? Not when he seems to take into account every possible prejudice on both sides and shows them with as much fair-mindedness as can be humanly mustered. Worthy and important."
- Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1990

"There has been a sudden deluge of books about Salman Rushdie and the attempt to silence him. This book, written by an expert on Middle East politics, is one of the better ones ... making the book of primary importance in its coverage of this controversy."
- Gordon Stein, Library Journal, April 1, 1990

"The Rushdie Affair is a lucid, balanced, often startling, and ultimately convincing analysis...But the author, who is director of Philadelphia's Foreign Policy Research Institute, is an experienced analyst of the Middle East, and his book is distinguished by its multitude of illuminating explanations for the violence of feeling with which Muslims sometimes reacted to The Satanic Verses ... worthy ... scrupulously fair, respectful of Islam yet unintimidated by the flood of threats and invective unleashed by The Satanic Verses.
- Mark Caldwell, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 13, 1990

"This is a highly enjoyable book to read, a work of impeccable scholarship that can be read like a thriller. ... Pipes offers a number of important conclusions that merit attention at all levels."
- Amir Taheri, Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1990

"Mr. Pipes has earned our gratitude for his scholarly presentation."
- Sol Schindler, The Washington Times, May 14, 1990

"Daniel Pipes, a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs and head of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, modestly and appropriately disclaims any literary credentials. It is rather his firm understanding of Islamic tradition and shrewd apprehension of political realities that distinguish both his analyses of the Muslim perceptions of blasphemy in Rushdie's work and his essay on the causes and world-wide effects of such perceptions. ... Pipes the political scientist has an almost obsessive regard for laying equally bare the bones of bias - real or presumed - on both sides. ...The book, as a whole is a useful gathering of facts, a scrupulous record of world-wide events, an interesting analysis of how the explosion of terror came about and a thoughtful presentation of its probable future effects."
- Beverly Fields, Chicago Tribune, June 3, 1990

"Daniel Pipes, author of five other books on the Middle east and a sympathetic outside observer of Islam ... untangles the story so anyone can follow it."
- Tom Blackburn, The Palm Beach Post, June 10, 1990

"Pipes has earned our gratitude for his scholarly presentation."
- Sol Schindler, Insight, June 11, 1990

"[The subject] has been thoroughly examined in scholar-journalist Daniel Pipes' judicious, carefully laced book."
- David Elliott, The San Diego Union, June 17, 1990

"The Rushdie Affair is an extremely well-written and clear analysis of the issues raised. Mr. Pipes, who teaches Middle Eastern affairs at the University of Pennsylvania, comes down firmly against censorship but pays the Muslim critics the compliment of taking their arguments seriously and not trying (as so many have) to explain them away with ulterior political motives. He is informative about the Islamic background to the argument - producing, notably, some fascinating examples of earlier works, published in Muslim countries, that were apparently no less blasphemous yet failed to provoke quite the same furor."
- Edward Mortimer, The New York Times, July 22, 1990

"This intelligent, easy-to-read book The Rushdie Affair, by an American scholar on Middle Eastern affairs puts the whole outrage into perspective."
- Dean Sims, Tulsa World, July 22, 1990

"Now, Middle East expert Daniel Pipes has written a comprehensive overview of the affair...the book is a valuable summary of the implications well beyond Salman Rushdie."
- Philip G. Altbach, Buffalo News, July 22, 1990

"A fascinating and revealing book..."
- Lionel Rolfe, Los Angeles Daily News, July 29, 1990

"Daniel Pipes' exhaustive re-examination of the fallout from Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Pipes - director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia - threads his way through the thicket of moral, religious and intellectual issues here with a commendable rigor that even the late Ayatollah would find stimulating."
- Tom Dowling, San Francisco Examiner, July 30, 1990

"The Rushdie Affair, a savvy, fair-minded analysis by Daniel Pipes."
- Dennis Drabelle, USA Today, August 23, 1990

"Daniel Pipes has written an illuminating, provocative, and ultimately frightening account of the Rushdie affair. In his hands, the story ceases to be one of a crackpot religious fanatic imposing his will on a defenseless author and an ignorant populace. Instead, Pipes fleshes out the remarkable series of events to demonstrate a political, religious and cultural Armageddon. As Pipes carefully details, it is a grave mistake to ignore the implications of the Rushdie affair...this book is best described as an original, a primer for Western readers. ... Daniel Pipes is a thoughtful researcher. His book not only contains an exhaustive compilation of the statements and deeds of the major players in the Rushdie affair, it also remarks on significant silences and non-deeds."
- Samuel Seidner, The Boston Jewish Times, November 29, 1990

"This book...provides the most readable accounts about the most (in)famous writer-heretic of the late 20th century."
- B. B. Lawrence, Choice - Current Reviews for College Libraries, December 1990

"Author Pipes has burrowed beneath these surface events to reveal a subterranean world of ironies associated with the Rushdie affair. ... The path to that understanding has become more accessible through Pipes' careful rendering of the Rushdie affair."
- Arnold Ages, Heritage Southwest Jewish Press, January 11, 1991

"Daniel Pipes has written a fast-paced and clearly understandable explanation of the entire Rushdie affair, explaining and exploring why Rushdie's book shook Iran and the Muslim world and why the Western Christian world responded so vigorously. The book is vital to understanding the differences and similarities between these two religious camps, particularly in light of subsequent events in the Middle East that will probably be of concern to the West, both diplomatically and economically, for many years to come...comprehension of the forces in play in The Rushdie Affair will be of vital importance in understanding our diplomatic needs in the Middle East in the coming decades."
- Margery H. Livas, The News (Southbridge, Mass.), December 17, 1991

"Daniel Pipes's The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah, and the West appeared in 1990, when tensions provoked by The Satanic Verses were still running high. Even after two decades it remains the most balanced account of the events."
- Elizabeth Powers, The Weekly Standard, January 3, 2011

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