It says a lot about these intellectually malnourished times that the most effective literary publicist of the twentieth century was the Ayatollah Khomeini. A trend-spotter in many respects, but not least because he didn’t bother to read the book he helped make famous, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran sentenced the Indian novelist Salman Rushdie to death in 1989 over Rushdie’s fictional satire on the controversial aspect of the Islamic tradition that Satan might have dictated parts of the Koran, particularly those parts which compromised the singularity of God. The Khomeinist fatwa on Rushdie led a rush of fanaticism and apologetics that prefigured the twenty-first-century struggle against totalitarianism. Rather than act as absolute defenders of free speech and free inquiry, many intellectuals on the left and right behaved as if they were newly appointed members of a Committee of Public Safety—happy, if not eager, to second...


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