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Let Us Assure You, No One Is Fatwa-ing JK Rowling Over Her Transphobic Nonsense
Because no one love LGBTQ people like religious fundamentalists.
On Friday, Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie was stabbed and maimed by a fanatic seeking to make good on a 34-year-old fatwa against the author for the supposedly blasphemous book. Truly, it was freaking horrific. It was also very, very different from people criticizing bigots on Twitter.
As the news broke that Rushdie would be losing an eye and was on a ventilator, another story broke. J.K. Rowling, whose fame as the author of the Harry Potter books has been superseded by her reputation for saying horrible things about trans people on Twitter, also received a death threat from "a supporter" of Rushdie's assailant.
Rowling – who has previously been targeted by some trans activists for her beliefs on gender – had published a post expressing her horror at the attempt on Rushdie’s life, when one responder threatened her harm.
Rowling wrote on Friday night, “Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok.”
Meer Asif Aziz, described in his Twitter bio as ‘student, social activist, political activist and research activist’ responded, “Don’t worry you are next.”
Rowling today publicly asked Twitter to intervene, asking @TwitterSupport, “Any chance of some support?” but Aziz’s post currently remains in place. He had previously described the man arrested for Rushdie’s attack, Hadi Matar, as a “revolutionary Shia fighter.”
Police are investigating the threat, as they should. That being said, it is hard to imagine that this threat would have had anything to do with her TERFy nonsense, particularly given the direction it was coming from. Forgive me, but I somehow doubt that a religious fundamentalist who thought it was a swell idea to stab Salman Rushdie was also very concerned about the welfare of trans people. That is just not a Venn diagram that exists.
It is also worth noting that the reason Salman Rushdie was targeted by the Iranian government (and later the 15 Khordad Foundation ) was because The Satanic Verses supposedly "blasphemed" the Muslim religion. As far as I can tell, as a person who has read every Harry Potter book multiple times, I legitimately cannot think of an instance in which Rowling could be said to have done that. There isn't even a wizarding school in the Middle East, ok? And while Rowling certainly displayed a startling ignorance about a variety of cultures in the books (Cho Chang? Really?), I struggle to think of even one reference to Islam or the Koran.
Of course, the connection from the stabbing and the threat to Rowling to her history of transphobia were all merely implied. On Twitter, however, several well-known "gender critical" accounts really tried for the "So you think it's bad to stab Salman Rushdie over a book, but okay to criticize the second highest paid author in the world on Twitter just because she talks a lot about how she would prefer a specific group of people have fewer rights? Hypocrites!" gold.
In case you thought I was perhaps exaggerating in my description of what some of these tweets said, here is the one I was paraphrasing, from the virulently anti-trans journalist Helen Joyce.
I don't know how to tell you this, Helen, but criticizing a rich lady on Twitter for saying horrible things about people is not the same as stabbing someone in the face. I can't say I would enjoy being the day's main character on Twitter, but I can for sure say I would take it over being stabbed in the face. It also bears mentioning that even after Rushdie apologized for offending them, the government of Iran said that they would not, could not, officially call off the fatwa, ever. For comparison, all JK Rowling would have to do in order to escape the wrath of "the woke mob" would be to go a week without saying that trans people shouldn't be allowed to participate in sports.
Anyway, there are also those out there claiming that what is happening to Rowling is actually worse than a fatwa.
Our good pal Bari Weiss also wrote a li'l op ed on her Substack about the whole situation and how "Words aren't violence. Violence is violence," while comparing what Rowling and Dave Chappelle have gone through to Rushdie's stabbing.
The words are violence crowd is right about the power of language. Words can be vile, disgusting, offensive, and dehumanizing. They can make the speaker worthy of scorn, protest, and blistering criticism. But the difference between civilization and barbarism is that civilization responds to words with words. Not knives or guns or fire. That is the bright line. There can be no excuse for blurring that line—whether out of religious fanaticism or ideological orthodoxy of any other kind.
Today our culture is dominated by those who blur that line—those who lend credence to the idea that words, art, song lyrics, children’s books, and op-eds are the same as violence. We are so used to this worldview and what it requires—apologize, grovel, erase, grovel some more—that we no longer notice. It is why we can count, on one hand—Dave Chappelle; J.K. Rowling—those who show spine.
Of course it is 2022 that the Islamists finally get a knife into Salman Rushdie. Of course it is now, when words are literally violence and J.K. Rowling literally puts trans lives in danger and even talking about anything that might offend anyone means you are literally arguing I shouldn’t exist. Of course it’s now, when we’re surrounded by silliness and weakness and self-obsession, that a man gets on stage and plunges a knife into Rushdie, plunges it into his liver, plunges it into his arm, plunges it into his eye. That is violence.
I agree! Words are not violence. However there are instances in which words can incite violence — for instance, issuing a fatwa! Another way to do that is by constantly and obsessively attacking a marginalized group of people we know are already at risk for violent, hate-based attacks.
People have been killed for being trans. So far, there have been no murders (or even face-stabbings) of TERFy YA authors or comedians.
One thing I sure would like to point out, however, is that those who are actually committing acts of violence to silence people they disagree with, those who are actually out here right now "defunding libraries" and banning books, and literally, actively trying to silence people are those who share Rowling's and Chappelle's and Weiss's beliefs about trans people. I would like to note that I did look through Weiss's blog, smugly titled "Common Sense," and did not see a single excoriation of the people who are doing that as the enemies of free speech they actually are.
Just to clarify! If you defend someone's right to speak without being censored or imprisoned by the government, you are pro-free speech. If you defend someone's right to speak without other people weighing in or even saying they are an asshole, you are not. Especially if you seem to have nothing to say about those who actually are trying to use the government for censorship purposes.
And on that note, allow us to present Cathy Young's take on the whole thing — in which she "calls out" writer and host of the Maintenance Podcast Michael Hobbes for ... whatever reason. I guess because he was mean about the concept of "cancel culture" one time.
As a side note, I would just really like to point out that I was not able to find a single instance of either Young or Weiss decrying at-will employment. Forgive me, but it is very hard for me to take critiques of "cancel culture" seriously when proponents don't appear to actually have a problem with the fact that employers in this country are allowed to fire people for literally any reason. You would think that — especially with their one semi-point being the idea of people losing their jobs over being "canceled" on the internet — that this would be something they would have some pretty strong feelings about ... and yet? Nothing. Not a word.
Using a situation like Rushdie's to advance a narrative that JK Rowling is being victimized by trans people and their allies (who, by the way, had nothing to do with the actual threat she did recieve) on Twitter is both callous and ridiculous. Having an entire country put a bounty on your head is very obviously different from someone saying "Wow! That sure was a horrible thing to say!" on Twitter. This should not even be up for discussion. We know what real free speech oppression looks like, and it ain't that.
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