This month marks the 20th anniversary of the fatwa against Salman Rushie, following the protests against his novel Satanic Verses.
The BBC marked the event with a 45 minute documentary and discussion on Radio 3, as part of their Night Waves season, chaired by Matthew Sweet. Looking back 20 years it is easy to forget that in Britain we never really talked about a Muslim community prior to this storm. As Kenan Malik pointed out in the discussion, terms such as Black or Asian were the norm. The idea of a seperate Muslim community was anathema.
The BBC's line up for this programme was in itself indicative. Malik is a well known writer in this field, but I must confess to being broadly unaware of Navid Akhtar, Pria Ghopal, Jo Glanville and Martin Palmer. Aside from the desire of Akhtar to assert the voice of moderate British Islam, I was left wondering how such a programme could proceed without some of the voices of 1989 that so shocked liberal Britain, and have had a profound affect on our community structure. Why not ask some of the myriad Muslim organisations who today lobby government daily, such as the Muslim Council of Britain, for their views? That I know of, the Satanic Verses was burnt in the streets in Bolton, Bradford and Derby. What do people who were there then, say now? Or the Muslims who rioted in London in May 1989, attacking secularist counter demonstrators at Hyde Park corner?
Perhaps the most prominent British voice in the "Death to Rushdie" campaign was that of Dr Kalim Siddiqui. Rushie has survived Dr Siddiqui, but his son, Iqbal, still keeps the Islamist fires burning. Late last year he put pen to paper stressing the importance of the Rushdie affair to the British Muslim community, all in best Edith Piaf style. Had I been drawing up the panel for yesterdays discussion, Iqbal Siddiqui's name would have been one of the first on the list.
I can't help feeling however, that such views may well be a little bit too real for the BBC.............