In my forthcoming book, Democratic Criticism: Poetics of Incitement and the Muslim Scared, I suggest Muslims should not be treated as a monolithic cultural group when it comes to their responses to controversial literary texts. I also encourage my western readers to look at Muslim responses to “transgressive’ texts by putting themselves in the Muslim reader’s shoes. For this purpose, I included a discussion of the Muslim responses to Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in my book. Those familiar with the Rushdie Affair would recall that his book had caused a furor in the Muslim world. In the Western press and academic writing, however, it was openly suggested that if the Muslims read the book like their Western counterparts, they will have no problem at all. I set out to find out the Muslim level of tolerance towards literary texts that include Islam, Muslims, or Islamic tropes as the main part of their narrative.
- A Five Question Survey
- Survey Analysis
- User Interviews
I decided to first conduct a simple survey and then follow it up with user interviews. The target users for this survey were Muslim readers who could read literature in English. The survey was administered to 100 screened users through Qualtrics.
Most Muslim readers will be fine while reading about the critiques of Muslim political systems, critiques of their contemporary religious leaders, but would be reluctant to read a book that satirizes or otherwise trivializes the Prophet and his household.
The Survey Included the following FIVE questions:
- Would you read book if it makes fun of Muslim politicians, kings, or rich Muslims?
- Would you read a book that makes fun of peers, mullahs, or other contemporary religious figures?
- Would you read a book that satirizes historical Muslim kings and rulers?
- Would you read a book that highlights patriarchal practices in Muslim societies?
- Would you read a book that satirizes the Prophet or members of his household?
Simple Survey Results
Simple Survey Results
As is obvious from the survey results, while most respondents had no problems with the first four questions, the response to question 5 was highly lopsided, as almost 98 percent of respondents declared that they will NOT read a book that “satirizes the Prophet or members of his household.” This meant that for Muslims readers, the figure of the Prophet and his household was so sacred that they could not even imagine reading a book that satirized him and or his family. Having gathered this preliminary data, I decided to conduct interviews with five Muslim readers.