Another title for this book might be ‘From The Satanic Verses to The Jewel of Medina’. The significance of the two decades that Malik covers is that they stand between the fatwa pronounced on Salman Rushdie for a very good novel and the chasing into hiding of the publisher of Sherry Jones’s exceedingly bad one. The period saw what Malik brilliantly describes as the ‘internalisation’ of the fatwa – a period in which even though the Ayatollah’s specific wish was not carried out, his wider object most certainly was. Last year, when Jones’s publisher at Gibson Square was forced into hiding after an apparent assassination attempt in London, barely an eyebrow was raised. Execrable and fawning as it was, Jones’s book was about Mohammed’s last wife (six when he married her, nine at consummation), and after Rushdie, the reaction it provoked is what we have come to expect if you tread near Islam.
The ground that Malik covers has been trodden many times before, but this is a frequently subtle and elegant book. New sources, however, are few: the gobby apologist Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain is hardly a person from whom it is hard to extract quotes,