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It took a near-fatal attack on author Salman Rushdie to remind everyone what happens when you publicly criticize Islam. Mock Christianity in any way, shape or form, as rapper DaBaby just did with his newest music video? You’ll likely be punished by extensive press coverage.
Rushdie’s controversial 1988 tome, “The Satanic Verses,” inspired a fatwa on the celebrated scribe from Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The ruling forced the author to abandon his public life and live under police security.
Rushdie began appearing in public after a while, in part because Iran officially rescinded the death sentence in 1998. Perhaps Rushdie hoped the white-hot rage against the novel, which some Muslims considered blasphemous, had finally waned.
His plight eventually fell off the pop culture radar. In recent years Cancel Culture took over, which only erased one’s livelihood, not individual lives.
For some, apparently, that fatwa remained in effect.
The Aug. 12 attack, in which Rushdie endured 12 stab wounds during a literary event at the Chautauqua Institution, may leave the 75-year-old permanently disabled. The shocking assault made the fatwa come roaring back to the cultural front burner.
PEN America, to its credit, rallied authors to support Rushdie and free speech one week later.
Now, compare the threat Rushdie faced over the years with how artists treat Christianity. Filmmakers, singers and painters alike have critiqued the religion relentlessly over the years, from Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” to the upcoming Peacock original “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.”
The satire, starring Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall, skewers a Southern Baptist megachurch attempting to rebuild its congregation after an embarrassing scandal.
Last year’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” skewered corrupt televangelist Jim Bakker and depicted other faith leaders in a less than noble fashion. The satire did salvage some humanity for Bakker’s wife, Tammy Faye Bakker, earning Jessica Chastain an Oscar for her troubles.
HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones,” approaching its third season, follows morally suspect televangelists wheeling and dealing for a more righteous, and rich, tomorrow.
Even The Babylon Bee, a right-leaning faux news site run by Christians, takes playful potshots at their faith.
Other Christianity critiques appear less sensitive in nature.
DaBaby appears as a Christ-like figure being crucified in the video for “Tough Skin.” He’s bombarded with bricks and targeted by a flamethrower but emerges unaffected by the attacks.
Perhaps the rapper felt some sort of competition with Lil Nas X, who created an exclusive sneaker line last year dubbed “Satan Shoes” which featured an inverted cross and human blood in every product.
Few others have dared to mock Islam since Rushdie’s 1988 novel. “South Park” depicted the prophet Muhammad multiple times, an act in and of itself deemed sacrilegious to believers, but those episodes have since been dropped from streaming services.
The satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo endured terrorist attacks in 2015 tied to an editorial cartoon portraying the Prophet Muhammad. Seventeen people died as a result of the attacks.
Plenty has changed in the culture since Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” hit bookstores more than three decades ago. Back then, the liberal Left rallied behind both Rushdie and free speech in general. Christians routinely picketed projects like Scorsese’s “Christ,” their collective outrage failing to stop them from reaching the masses.
Today, it’s conservative Christians who support free speech across the culture, even if their critics mock them for protesting sexually-charged tomes in public schools.
They even made a movie about the assaults on free speech on universities. “No Safe Spaces” warned the trend wouldn’t stay confided to college campuses.
The liberal press gives today’s censorious mob cover, siding with Cancel Culture warriors whenever possible.
One thing remains constant – anyone who doesn’t follow the letter of the religious law regarding Islam risks a fate equal, or worse, than Rushdie’s. Take a shot at Christianity, though, and chances are you’ll ride a positive press wave.