La Shawn Barber, who sponsors the Baldilocks blog as I do this month, has a review of one of the books debunking that surprising bestseller - "The Da Vinci Code". Somehow I can't help but do a little compare and contrast between this book and the book that seems to be the Islamic equivalent - Salman Rushdie's notorious Satanic Verses.
For one thing I note that Dan Brown has mysteriously failed to be hunted down by fanatical Christian fundamentalits egged on by a foaming at the mouth Jerry Falwell. In fact neither Jerry, nor the Pope, nor any other major religious leader that I can easily google has suggested that Mr Brown be helped on his way to explain himself to Jesus. In fact amazinly enough, Mr Brown has a tour schedule for signing his work at bookshops around the world. OK so its blank at this moment, but I'm sure that it will fill up when he releases his next book and wants to go out and drum up sales. For some reason his publisher seems not to expect that such tours could result in the premature demise of Mr Brown. Mr Rushie on the other hand faced denunciations and fatwas for blasphemy with numerous Islamic leaders such as the Ayatollah Khomeini declaring that he was sentenced to death and that it any Moslem was permitted to execute him. Mr Rushdie probably made quite a lot of money as a result but I don't think he's really enjoyed his life since.
In fact the review above is one critical difference between Christianity and Islam. It seems that many biblical scholars are debunking the Da Vinici Code in books of their own and making considerable money doing so. Not only that but certain churches seem to think that effectively "any publicity is good publicity" and actively try to recruit the nonbelievers who read the book by showing them that it is wrong. Of course it is possible to find denunciations and declarations of blasphemy, but that seems to be the limit. One harsh review by a Christain minister ends with the conclusion that:
I am not one for advocating book burning, but I will say that The Da Vinci Code is not worth the ashes burning it would create. It is as Sandra Miesel contends: "Blasphemy delivered in a soft voice."
As far as I can tell Islamic leaders and theologians were rather less willing to refute The Satanic Verses. Rather than calmly explain why the book was blasphemous and why reading it would endanger one's immortal soul, they preferred to try and ban the book and kill the author. Some apologists seem to think that this sort of response is excusable indeed almost to be expected because of the great insult, but to me this is the attitude of the spoiled child who has been thwarted. It also helps explain why there is so little creative thought or science in the Islamic world, despite it containing such a large proportion of humanity.
Perhaps Shiite leaders such as Ayatollah Sistani and other more tolerant sorts of Islam such as the Sufis can rescue their religion. I sincerely hope so but I fear that the fanatics have the upper hand at present.