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Past Events

Past EventsSaturday, February 28

Confronting Terror: Bernard-Henri Lévy & Salman Rushdie

Bernard-Henri Lévy
Salman Rushdie
Chair: Jonathan Freedland

In 1989 Salman Rushdie was sentenced to death for blasphemy after publishing The Satanic Verses, a fictional and imaginative portrayal of Islam, which the Iranian government described as a 'provocative American deed.' He lived in hiding for nine years and saw his literary collaborators attacked or killed.

Bernard-Henri Lévy spent a year investigating and writing Who Killed Daniel Pearl (2003) about the American journalist murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002. He concludes that the clash of civilisations is not between Islam and the West, but between radical and moderate Islam.

Among the last words forced from Pearl by his captors, both confession and avowal, were, "I come from a family of Zionists...My father is Jewish...I am Jewish." To Lévy, this is 'an affair that revealed the very heart of modern antisemitism.' But what about the growingIslamophobia that parallels it? And what are the connections between American foreign policy, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the rise of this new extremism?

To open Jewish Book Week 2004, Jonathan Freedland chaired a remarkable meeting between these two profound thinkers, who explored some of the most critical questions of our post 9/11 world.

Bernard-Henri Lévy is one of France's leading philosophers, writers and personalities "accorded the kind of adulation in France that most countries reserve for their rock stars". He is the author of 30 books of passionate cultural commentary, biography and fiction, including several works about the Islamic world. A war reporter during the 1971 conflict over Bangladesh, he became famous as the flamboyant founder of the nouveaux philosophes group in the 1970s. He has served as a diplomat for the French government, most recently heading a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.

Salman Rushdie was born into a Muslim family in Bombay in 1947, and attended Rugby and King's College, Cambridge. He is the author of eight novels, including Midnight's Children (1981), The Satanic Verses(1989), The Moor's Last Sigh (1996) and The Ground Beneath Her Feet(1999). In 1981 he was awarded the Booker Prize for Midnight's Children, which later received the 'Booker of Bookers' Prize as the best of the award's recipients in its 25-year history (1993). 

Jonathan Freedland is a broadcaster, Guardian columnist and author.

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