Letter: In Paine's pillory

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Sir: Kenan Malik writes that he had wanted to begin his essay on Tom Paine (27 January) by quoting from The Satanic Verses, but 'it was felt . . . that this would be too provocative and insensitive', and so he was 'unable' to use the quote he wanted. Mr Malik rightly points out how ironic it is that such a situation should arise in the context of an article about Tom Paine, of all people, and although he does not make clear who the censor was, one can only conclude, Sir, that it was you.

If it is really your newspaper's position that even brief quotations from my novel are to be expurgated from your columns - which implies that you accept that the 'offence' in this matter is committed by The Satanic Verses, rather than against it, and that, as its enemies have demanded, the book should therefore be excluded from civilised discourse - then please have the honesty to inform your readers of this. (If Mr Malik's piece had quoted from my book to attack it, rather than approve of it, would you still have deleted the passage? I suspect not.)

For myself, I shall continue to defend the integrity of my novel as a work of art, and the legitimacy of its dissent from religious (and political) correctness. I shall continue to argue against thought-policemen of all sorts, though it is astonishing to find them at the Independent.

Kenan Malik reminds us how viciously Paine was reviled for his irreverence. It is an honour to follow him into the pillory. No matter how wounding the insults are (and the banning from your pages of a text from The Satanic Verses is certainly an insult), I shall remember the persecution of the author of The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason - found guilty of blasphemy in Britain, though he was living in America at the time - and wear such wounds with pride.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW10

27 January