Johann Hari har møtt Salman Rushdie til en inngående samtale. Det var før Mumbai, men i intervjuet sier Rushdie mye som omhandler India. Spesielt Kashmir: da Rushdie vokste opp var muslimene i Kashmir åpne og tolerante. Det gikk an å være from uten å være intolerant. På åtti år har situasjonen forandret seg radikalt, og det samme har skjedd med islam over store deler av kloden.

Man må ikke lukke øynene. Det handler ikke om Gaza og palestinerne eller Kashmir. Uansett hvor mange krav som ble innfridd, jihad vil fortsette, sier Rushdie. Han sier fatwaen mot ham var en fugl som varslet 9/11 og nå lever vi på en måte alle under en fatwa – en trussel om død.

«We’re all living under a fatwa now,» Salman Rushdie sighs, listing his persecutors’ long slew of victims, from Algerian novelists to Bali clubbers to Circle Line commuters. «You can see the fatwa as the overture to 9/11. It’s not a direct line. Maybe you could say it was not the same piece of music. But in some way, it was a harbinger — a small thing before a big thing. The first crow, you know, flying across the sky.»

Intervjuet finner sted i kjelleren på et fasjonabelt London-hotell. De snakker om fatwaen, et ørkesløst tema, men uunngåelig. Rushdie må komme tilbake til det – igjen og igjen:

he reflects, with calm dignity, on the massed millions of the fanatical who wish to behead him, simply because they think something one of his characters says in a dream in a novel insults a man who died 1300 years ago. «It was beyond… I can’t tell you,» he says, a rare moment when his sentences stutter. «I’ve tried, quite hard, as an act of will, to put it behind me, because I don’t want to carry that weight around.

Rushdie burde interessere norske medier pga. Nygaard. Men det kan virke som om mediene mistet interessen for Rushdie i takt med at han ble en outspoken critic av islamismen. Han underskrev på oppropet om islamo-fascism. Det gjør ham ekstrem i norske mediers øyne.

Men hvem er de som sier de forstår dette bedre enn Rushdie?

Rushdie er født og oppdratt mellom Øst og Vest, både geografisk og religiøst. Han har vært en stor tilhenger av den moderne verdens folkeforflytninger: han sa en gang at bare trær har røtter, mennesker har føtter. De bebor ideer, ikke jord.

This battle was agony for Salman not just because he was wrenched away from his wife, his young child, and the countries and cultures that had always nourished him, but because, as he puts it, «the warring halves of the world – East and West – were also the warring halves of my soul.» He is «the bastard child of history», one of the great hybrid-children produced by the mass migrations of the twentieth century. He was raised in the East, schooled in the West, and indelibly crafted by both. Salman Rushdie lives and writes on the great global fault-line – and a fault-line is always a dangerous place to be.

Rushdie har vært tvunget til å innse at denne krympingen av verden også har betydd et intolerant backlash. Flere toneangivende i Vesten er villig til å kalle dette religionens tilbakekomst, og mener vi skal gi større plass til religion. Som regel mener de da islam. Rushdie er forferdet, redd. Han frykter at alt det han har elsket i Vesten er i ferd med å bli overgitt.

Selv er han en historisk person, i fortellingen om intoleransens gjenkomst. Det skjedde 14. februar 1989, på Valentin-dagen. Khomeini offentliggjorde fatwaen som påla alle muslimer å drepe Rushdie. Han kunne ikke skru på en tv uten å møte bildet av rasende folkemasser. Dette var global jihad-islam som for første gang strakte ut sin autoritet til et ikke-muslimsk land, og Rushdie var hovedpersonen. Han har mye å reflektere over.

Han forsøkte å gjøre det i boken Sharlimar the Clown som handler om Kashmir og ekstremisme. Her beskriver han den trygge, åpne islam hans besteforeldre praktiserte.

But it was his Kasmiri grandfather who would surprise Salman’s wannabe-assassins. «He was a very devout Muslim. He said his prayers every day five times a day without fail, despite the teasing of his terrible grandchildren, and he went on Hajj to Mecca,» he explains. «He sort of affected gruffness, but he didn’t fool anybody. He was a much beloved figure in [the town of] Aligar, where he was a family doctor. He was a very familiar spectacle on the streets, bicycling around the city going about his daily rounds. When I was a little boy, I used to sit on the back, on the pillion, and see everyone waving to him.»

But this devout Muslim was the antithesis of the book-burners who now attack his grandson. He remains to Salman «the model of tolerance. Whenever I think about open-mindedness, I think about him. You could sit there as an eleven or twelve year old boy and say ‘Grandfather, I don’t believe in god’. And he would say ‘Really? That’s very interesting. Sit down here and tell me all about it.’ And there would be no kind of attempt to ram something down your throat or criticise you. There would just be conversation.»

This culture of enlightenment – of free, open dispute – led his grandfather to take him to the University library, «which for me as a small boy was wonderful to explore, with those giant, towering bookstacks, with those ladders you had to climb up. In my memory, I would take out great stacks of Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse, which he would sign out very seriously along with his medical textbooks.»

Foreldrene var ikke spesielt religiøse, de besøkte moskeen tre ganger om året. De forsøkte å gi barna religiøs instruksjon, men måtte gi opp. De var allerede «ødelagt».

Kashmir er totalt forandret av 40 års ekstremisme. Kashmir har muslimsk flertall, men hindu-herskeren bestemte at Kashmir skulle forbli en del av India. Pakistan har drevet sitt spill med terrorgrupper og India har svart på en måte som har antagonisert befolkningen.

Men ennå ser Rushdie håp for muslimene i India. De har fremdeles noe av den åpne holdningen.

The mild, mystical Sufi brand of Islam practised in the valley was gradually displaced by an austere Arab version – Islam 3.0. The Indian government reacted with crazed violence, treating every Kashmiri Muslim as a potential insurgent, and even using mass rape as a way to «break» the population. The Muslim population became more fundamentalist, the Indians ramped up the violence again – and on and on, in an intensifying tango of death.
He fears that – in part as a result of this – «the good guys are losing the battle within Islam. There’s no question. The Islam that now exists is not the Islam that I grew up with.» All over the novel, there drift bleak, depressive clouds where Salman seems to fear that his grandfather’s Kashmir – and the other brief patches of peace in human history – are only short breaks in the story of a species determined to tear itself apart. One character laments, «Maybe tyranny, forced conversions, temple-smashing, iconoclasm, persecution and genocide were the norms and peaceful coexistence was an illusion… Maybe peace was his opium pipe-dream.» Another comments that «the single most obvious truth about the history of the human race» is «the inevitable triumph of illusion over reality.» As he hears these quotes, Salman nods. «Look at history. It’s not the account of a species at peace.»

I det religiøse backlash ligger et nostalgisk ønske om å vende tilbake til det rene, opprinnelige. Det er salafismens kjerne.

The mass uprooting he celebrated helped to create the Islamist pining for a fictitious lost purity that is trying to kill him, a desperate quest to recreate the Mecca of Mohammed in the world’s cold concrete jungles: «I have spent a lot of my life looking positively at the consequences of migration. Now I’m being forced to see that there’s a nightmare as well as a dream.»

Mange i Vesten nekter å se denne religiøsiteten for hva den er. De bruker alle sine evner til å forstå hvorfor de er så sinte.

He fears that many people are wilfully misunderstanding the new Islamist virus that has spread through this new world. «People have been so knocked off balance by what’s going on that their normally well functioning moral sense seems to have lost its footing.» After eighteen years in the Islamist cross-hairs, Salman wants – needs – people to understand that this new Islamic fundamentalism is not simply the lump sum of all the bad things the West have done to Muslims, reflected back at us.

Selv om alle problemer ble løst, ville jihad fortsette. Det handler om at det virkelige livet er livet etter døden.

«If tomorrow the Israel/Palestine issue was resolved to the total happiness of all parties, it would not diminish the amount of terrorism coming out of Al Qaeda by one jot. It’s not what they’re after,» he adds, his foot tapping against mine as he leans forward. «Yes, it’s a recruiting tool, rhetorically. Many people see there’s an injustice there, and it helps them to get people into the gang, but it’s not what they want. What they want is to change the nature of human life on earth into the image of the Taliban. If you want the whole earth to look like Taliban Afghanistan, then you’re on the same side as them. If you don’t want that, you’re not. They do not represent the quest for human justice. That, I think, is one of the great mistakes of the left.»
He senses soft racism in the refusal to see Islamic fundamentalists for what they are. When looking at the Christian fundamentalists of the United States, most people see an autonomous movement of superstitious madmen. But when they look at their Islamic equivalents, they assume they cannot mean what they say. «One of the things that’s commonly said by Islamists is that it’s acceptable to bomb a disco, because a disco is a place where people are behaving in a disgusting way. Go away and die – that’s all Bin Laden wants you to do. It’s not just about Iraq, it’s about ham sandwiches and kissing in public places and sex with girls you’re not married to.» He pauses. «It’s about life.»

Forced to stare Islamism in the face – to see it in every shadow – Salman discovered that, at its core, there are preposterous superstitions some of the left want to wave aside as irrelevant or even as bogus propaganda myths. «They [Islamists] really believe your real life begins at the moment of death. They believe their Paradise is more real, and this world is just a vale of tears,» he says.

Innsiden av CST-togterminalen i Mumbai etter angrepet 26. november.

Rushdie pleide å tilhøre venstresiden. Han fornærmet Thatcher på et tidspunkt da hun sørget for vaktholdet rundt ham – og betalte det. Nå er han oppgitt over en venstreside som ikke vil forstå.

It horrifies Salman that so many people in his natural political home – the left – don’t get this. They seem to imagine that when people call for a novelist to be beheaded for blasphemy, they are really calling for a return to the 1967 borders, or an independent Kashmir, or an end to the occupation of Iraq. They are not, he stresses. They mean what they say. «I think the left is misreading the situation for two reasons. The worthy reason is a desire to understand rather than condemn, to go out of your way to see what they’re on about.»

But «so much of the left always seems to fall for fascist bastards pretending to be speaking on behalf of the masses. They’ve done it before with communism in its various forms, and here’s another bunch of fascist bastards claiming to be speaking for the downtrodden masses, and they’re falling for it again.»

Ser kapitulasjon over alt.

Rushdie er forferdet over blindheten i Vest. I Storbritannia popper det opp religiøse privatskoler, med offentlig støtte. Tror man virkelig at svaret på religiøs intoleranse er mer religion?

Salman has looked down the barrel of Islamism, smelt its cordite, and survived. So he is perpetually being asked – how do we lift the collective fatwa on our transport systems, our nightclubs, our cities? How do we scrape meaning from his misery? «When people ask me how the West should adapt to Muslim sensitivities, I always say – the question is the wrong way round. The West should go on being itself. There is nothing wrong with the things that have for hundred of years have been acceptable – satire, irreverence, ridicule, even quite rude commentary – why the hell not?»

«But you see it every day, this surrender,» he says. He runs through a list of the theatres and galleries that have censored themselves in the face of religious fundamentalist protests. He mentions that the entire British media – from the BBC down – placed itself in purdah during the Mohammed cartoons. «What I fear most is that when we look back in twenty-five years’ time at this moment, what we will have seen is the surrender of the West, without a shot being fired. They’ll say that in the name of tolerance and acceptance, we tied our own hands and slit our own throats. One of the things that have made me live my entire life in these countries is because I love the way people live here.»

Salman sees surrender stamped on every one of the ‘faith schools’ being constructed by Tony Blair. «To say the solution to the problems religion has caused is more religion… it’s just crazy,» he says. It will only reinforce the sealing-off of Muslims from the world that is symbolised by the veil, which he sees as a hideous anti-feminist shroud, «a one-woman tent».

How to Understand Kashmir and Survive the Jihadis: An Interview with Sir Salman Rushdie

Intervjuet ble åpenbart gjort da Sharlimar the Clown utkom for ca. to år siden.