Confronting Terror: Bernard-Henri Lévy & Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie, Bernard-Henri Lévy

28/02/2004 2:00 pm

n 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.

Salman Rushdie

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).

Bernard-Henri Lévy

Bernard-Henri Lévy is a philosopher, filmmaker, activist, and the author of over thirty books, including The Virus in the Age of Madness and now The Will to See: Dispatches form a World of Misery and Hope. He is widely regarded as one of the West’s most important public intellectuals.