Saturday, June 24, 2006

Salman Rushdie

I was impressed by Salman Rushdie in his interview with Bill Moyers on public television last night--even though I only caught parts of it. He seemed like a thoroughly civilized, thoughtful, and compassionate man. The interview series is about one of your favorite subjects, Bush: faith.

I trust you might be able to watch it, because we the word "faith" has been bandied about too much of late by those who seek to exploit it for political gain, and listening to a man like Rushdie has to be a broadening experience. While he himself is a confirmed and joyful atheist, he nonetheless professes great respect for religion and religious people--a respect learned from a beloved grandfather, a deeply religious and practicing Muslim who was, as Rushdie described him, also the most tolerant man he ever knew.

Educated in part at my own alma mater, Cambridge University, Rushdie is in a position to know both the Islamic culture into which he was born and the Western culture he has thoroughly assimilated. In today's world, he points out, "We are inescapably involved with each other. We have to deal with each other." He sees the struggle in the Muslim world as being not primarily about Islam: "The IRA," he astutely notes, "is not inherently Catholic." Fanaticism, in his view, is no more than "a pimple on the nose" of Islam, and it's incumbent on the moderate Muslim world to reject it.

"There is so much incomprehension between the West and the rest of the world," he laments," adding that "We need to understand imaginatively who each other is." He sees this imaginative understanding to be the primary task for himself as a writer and, he adds, for virtually every other writer he knows. I find that aspiration to be a noble and appropriate one, Bush--and one that I hope to be following with you here in The Bush Diaries. It's all about learning to be more fully human, as I see it--about becoming more fully conscious of the breadth and depth of the human species and its infinite potential. And writing is the only way I know to do it.

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