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COMMUNICATION: Media, Arts, & Society | February 19, 1989



An Unpublished Letter to Los Angeles Times

Note: Please also consider the issues raised in my later letter.

As one writer of controversial material to another, I second your support of Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, as he faces fanatical Muslim assassins.

Regardless of Mr. Rushdie's apparently inflammatory style, I doubt his otherwise minor literary work would budge one true believer from his or her faith in Islam. Just as the Prophet Mohammed demonstrated tolerance towards those of other faiths -- even those who had persecuted him personally -- the true American spirit recognizes that to drive free speech underground is unjust and often self-defeating.

To the Islamic faithful, I implore denunciation of violence and censorship. Defend your faith with reason, not irrationality -- according to your Koran: "The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr."

To my fellow Westerners, I warn that we not take too much of a holier-than-thou attitude. I and undoubtedly countless other writers have suffered the "assassination" of our careers, whenever our thoughts on paper have offended the powers-that-be, such as the powerful petrochemical lobby, whom I have bucked heads with [in my works presenting biological controls as alternatives to chemical pesticides]; the self-appointed textbook censors, whom many publishers routinely defer to; and many television executives, who relegate women, minorities, and alternative life styles to stereotypical, token roles.

Although the booksellers should not be forced to expose their employees or customers to a lethal risk, I would hope that the American spirit that tells censors -- especially terrorists -- to "go f*** themselves" (self-censored) is as alive in 1989 as it was in 1776.

Finally, we really should pity instead of hate those who won't think for themselves but choose instead to let a dictator do so for them: Regardless of the sin of Adam and Eve, was not God's first gift to humankind a free will?

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