When Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, he didn't want only the author of The Satanic Verses killed – he pronounced that: "All those involved in its publication who were aware of its contents are sentenced to death." Even this wasn't cause enough for the then Conservative government to denounce the fatwa. Instead, from Geoffrey Howe to William Waldegrave to Margaret Thatcher herself, statements of sympathy were proffered towards those who may have felt that their religious sensibilities had been offended.
The legacy of the incident, Kenan Malik contends in this cogently argued and approachable polemic, is the current fearfulness of any expression that may insult Islam, coupled with a contrasting suspicion or fear of Islam itself. The situation is worsened by multiculturalism, which has created a tribal feeling among different faiths and races, says Malik, who agrees with Amartya Sen that what we actually have is not multiculturalism but "plural monoculturalism".