Heresy for dummies

BC Pires -
BC Pires -



THE BEST thing about the stabbing of Salman Rushdie is it brought to mind two great jokes first cracked 30-plus years ago, when the fatwa on the British/Indian writer was imposed, for the crime of writing a book the ayatollahs had not read and would not understand if they had.

Facing, in 1989, exactly the risk of potentially fatal attack that materialised last week, Rushdie saved his personal life by vanishing from public life. And here are the two jokes: What has bright red hair, wears a pink bikini and lives in the backwoods of Oregon? Salman Rushdie; and: Have you heard that Salman Rushdie is writing a new book? It’s called Buddha, You Fat Firetruck.

Laugh at your figurative peril, perhaps.

For 11 years from the 1989 fatwa, Rushdie lived under the name that became the title of his 2012 memoir, Joseph Anton (in honour of the writers Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov, the pseudonym he chose after rejecting other combinations of names of writers he admired, such as Vladimir Joyce and Marcel Beckett).

Rushdie may lose an eye and will certainly have his quality of life severely reduced.

And in Trinidad, people who genuinely think of themselves as decent human beings will declare “He look for that!”

A reader doing a UWI creative writing course once told me that her lecturer used Thank God It’s Friday to illustrate good writing; but, as a born-again Christian, the lecturer was also driven to denounce me personally.

“Don’t study BC Pires,” she told her class, “God go do for he!”

Even if God just won’t do for me, as an agnostic, God will apparently do for me on the same basis.

And, even if last week’s attack had become murder in fact, in Trinidad, Salman Rushdie would have been vilified and his attacker viewed as vindicated.

Because Trinis know you just don’t firetruck around with anybody’s religion, especially if you’re foolish enough to provoke a religious leader or sinful enough to stop believing in God; most versions of Christianity don’t require it today but death remains the punishment for apostasy in Islam.

Which leads neatly – I would not say by God’s will – to the crash course promised by today’s headline.

Now the atheists might have thought that my headline was intended to suggest that heresy was reserved for those too dunce to weigh the contradictions inherent in all religions and find them wanting, but I actually intend the opposite.

This is my very short guide for avoiding having a fatwa pronounced on your own fat head by someone who has never read what you wrote but has been guided by God to murder you (in the eyes of the criminal law) and protect the faith (in the holy eyes of the divine law).

Heresy for Dummies. (I would not add “by BC Priest.”)

1. Heresy is holding a belief or opinion contrary to the orthodox view of a religion; so do not hold views or opinions contravening any orthodox view of any religion.

2. That’s it. There is no number two; not any that doesn’t fall from the lips of the Almighty, at any rate.

You may have difficulty in choosing which belief to use as your benchmark. More contemporary religions, eg, will, with God’s blessing, accept as doctrine tenets that more Stone Age ones (ie, more holy ones) would reject as heresy, such as ordaining women and homosexual men as priests, or refusing to stone adulterous women to death.

The safest thing to do is to hold no views contradicting the orthodoxy of the most religious religion on earth.

Accordingly, you must scrupulously obey every word of guidance issued by the Taliban.

Especially if you are a woman and contemplate such sinful and immoral ambitions as sending your daughter to school. (On that topic, the Taliban will give you a very short, immediately comprehensible lesson called “the Malala.” It is short and direct enough to be delivered in bullet points.)

Whatever the holy men of the Taliban say is God’s will.

You dismiss everything else as open to interpretation at your own literal peril.

Because it’s not “he say/she say.” It’s just heresy.

BC Pires does not use marijuana but may yet end up being stoned. Read the full version of this column on Saturday at


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