Being threatened by thugs makes us more sensitive to their feelings!

Burning Satanic Verses lit the flame for better race relations
The Salman Rushdie affair prompted all of us to examine what it means to be British

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s issuing his fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie’s death. The burning of The Satanic Verses on Britain’s streets was a defining moment. The novel’s alleged slur on the Prophet Muhammad politicised many Muslims, pushing them in a more radical, confrontational direction. Some see the Rushdie controversy as the first step on the road to the 7/7 terrorist attacks.

But good came from that 20-year-old furore. It was the catalyst for a furious and fast-paced debate about what it means to be British. While other European countries have only just started to grapple with the growing immigrant communities, the Rushdie affair helped to compress change and the evolution of national identity into a few years. One day we will look back and admit that we are better for it.

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