This war is about Islam, insists Rushdie

War on Terrorism: Religion
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Salman Rushdie provoked new controversy among Muslims yesterday by claiming that the war in Afghanistan was "about Islam".

The London-based author, who was once the subject of a fatwa after publication of his novel The Satanic Verses, claimed that Islam was being hijacked by "radical political movements".

Writing in The New York Times, Rushdie said "paranoid Islam", which blamed "infidels" for all the ills of Muslim societies, was the fastest- growing form of the religion and needed to be challenged.

Rushdie said Western leaders had cited "the mantra" that "this war isn't about Islam". "The trouble with this necessary disclaimer is that it isn't true," he said. "If this isn't about Islam, why the worldwide Muslim demonstrations in support of Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida? Why are the war's first British casualties three Muslim men who died fighting on the Taliban side?"

For many Muslim men, Islam was a "half-examined" cluster of prejudices that included a loathing of modern society and a fear of the West, he said. But many, since the events of 11 September, were also questioning that version of Islam.

Rushdie's claims were rejected by prominent British Muslims. Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said there was already a "tremendous internal debate" within the Muslim world to reconcile Islam with modern life. He said: "Rushdie has lost his own faith and seems to be enraged that millions of Muslims are rediscovering theirs."

Iftakhar Khan, of the Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism, said: "Prior to Satanic Verses, no one, apart from the chattering classes, had even heard of Salman Rushdie. He is a publicity-seeking, shallow person without any morals."