The Chilling Legacy of the Rushdie Affair


Making common cause around sacred beliefs bonds humans into tribes, which further cement their solidarity by rallying against outsiders and impurities. Millions of the fatwa's supporters were acting not in the capacity of critics or ideologues, but in the capacity of tribe members, seeking to outdo each other in their displays of loyalty to the group. Once they had identified Rushdie as a profanation, his book might as well have been the Boston telephone directory, for all anyone cared.