Why Believers Are Outraged

There is a character in The Satanic Verses, a scribe named Salman, who commits an unthinkable sin. His job is to write down the revelations of God as recited by Mahound, Rushdie's fictional prophet. But the mischievous scribe repeatedly changes Mahound's words. When the prophet finally realizes that Salman has corrupted the text of his holy book, he explodes, "Your blasphemy can't be forgiven." The proper punishment for Salman's crime is death, but Mahound is merciful and spares his life.

Rushdie, whose first name is also Salman, seems to share the character's skepticism about the authenticity of God's revealed word. But...

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