February 22, 2006

PUNCHING HOT BUTTONS:

The Islamic States of America (Henry Schuster, February 22, 2006, CNN)

"When I first started writing, I thought it would be doctrinaire," Ferrigno says of his book. But he believes that in the end, it is respectful and even envious of Islam, if not the leaders of his imaginary Islamic States.

But you don't write a book like this and now watch the news about the cartoon riots without some degree of concern for your own personal safety. Author Salman Rushdie was on the receiving end of death threats and fatwas after he wrote a novel, "Satanic Verses," that many of his fellow Muslims believed was blasphemous.

"Do I worry about some nut thinking the book is a slander? Most of the characters are Muslim. I don't feel like this insults any religion. I've gotten some nasty comments because the Christian stronghold is called the Bible Belt.

"Religion is a hot-button issue for people, and in a way I think that is good. Religion matters," Ferrigno says.

On some blogs, he's been criticized not for being anti-Islam but for the opposite. One said he was an "apologist for terrorists."

Ferrigno says he's not worried about any backlash from the book, but he admits his wife didn't want him to write it -- and now that the book is out, they've talked to their children about being more careful.

There was a certain unintentional irony in one early review of "Prayers for the Assassin," which praised the book but then said it contained "a cartoon version of Islam."

Ferrigno has been watching the cartoon riots spread across the Muslim world. While he is respectful of Islam, he believes the riots are being caused by clerics exploiting a controversy where none exists.

"The only hope for the war on terror to be won is for there to be some sort of spiritual continuity. We [in the West] have to have freedom of expression. There's no way we can abide by your strictures, even if the cartoons are insulting. This is part of a liberal democracy," he says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 22, 2006 12:06 PM
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