Hitoshi Igarashi, RIP
I was hard at work on my forthcoming book The Truth About Muhammad (to be published by Regnery this fall) when I received this wholly apposite and well-timed email from a courageous Dutchman, Frans Groenendijk:
Unlike some other people I do remember that although Salman Rushdie himself was not killed because of the fatwa against him by the despicable Khomeini, several translators of his book "Satanic Verses" were attacked and the Japanese translator of the book was killed.
Until recently I did not know the exact date he was slaughtered or even his name.
He was murdered on July 11.
I would like to make July 11 a day for worldwide vigilance against jihadist intimidation. This year it will be 15 years ago that this peaceful Islamic scholar was brutally murdered. So 2006 is a good year to start observing this day.
Mr. Igashari was not an average victim of the mujahedin.
The reason why I looked for Mr. Igarashi's name in the first place was in relation to the Danish cartoons. Via Yahoo I found this quote:In Beirut, the leader of Lebanon's Shiite Hizbollah said the row would never had occurred if a 17-year-old death edict against British writer Salman Rushdie been carried out.
An outrageous statement indeed, but it was not the quote itself but what the news source added that appalled me most:Rushdie went into hiding and was never attacked.
The extremes of this wishful thinking approach continue to amaze me. He was never attacked? He lived in hiding for many years. Even Muslims who suggested that the fatwa should be lifted were beaten up and lost their jobs. Last year the Iranian mullahs declared that the death sentence on Rushdie is still valid -- 16 years after it was issued.
The military organisation, loyal to Iran's supreme leader, said that the order was "irrevocable", on the eve of the anniversary of the 1989 fatwa.
The order was issued after publication of Mr. Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, which Khomeini condemned as blasphemous.
Iran's reformist government has in the past distanced itself from the fatwa.
Without thinking much about the subject, I somehow supposed that Mr. Igarashi was "just" a translator, not objecting to translate this specific book. If Mr. Igarashi had been an average guy, not thinking too much about the sensibilities of the jihadsts, the murder would have been disgusting too. But reading a little about the background of Mr. Igarashi makes his story much sadder and more instructive.
According to this source, he opposed absolute freedom of speech and even somehow justified the fact that Khomeini came up with this act of spreading international terrorism:Hitoshi Igarashi was stabbed in the face and arms until he died on Tsukuba University's campus in Ibaraki on July 11 1991.
Igarashi, 44, the translator of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, is believed to have been murdered by an Iranian Shia Muslim carrying out the fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Igarashi, known to be one of Japan's leading young Islamic scholars, a man who had lived in Iran, decided to translate The Satanic Verses to act as a mediator between Khomeini (and the Muslim world) and Rushdie.
Igarashi's position was that both sides were right: Khomeini was justified in issuing the fatwa on Rushdie by virtue of his position in the Muslim clerical hierarchy; Rushdie, he argued, could be located in the lineage of mystical Sufi thought, and seen as not anti-Islamic but rather, as an Indian moved to England, more like a writer of the literature of exile, and thus not unlike Muhammad.
Igarashi's translation was not an attempt to force the Muslim world to accept the Western value of freedom of expression in an absolute form. It was a third-party effort to show common, middle ground, in order to end the conflict.
For his search for common ground, a kind of search that is suggested almost everyday now in media and politics in the Netherlands and other western countries as the right approach towards the jihadists, he paid with his life.
And that shows the effectiveness of that approach. Those who are calling for us to do the same thing now should take heed.
Remember him on July 11 and say to the jihadists: No more.
And may his memory be eternal.