There was a buzz of activity in our house. All over a book. I saw it lying there on the sofa. Without a jacket and quite possibly dull blue. This may have had something to do with it being from a library that no longer wanted it returned. That both my parents were discussing it was what surprised. For while my English mother was known for her book-worming ways — it was highly unusual for my Pakistani father to take time out of his doctoring duties to read for displeasure. Indeed, it was only in his later years that I managed to buck this trend when I gifted him a coffee table book dedicated to his all-time hero: Clint Eastwood. That, and the Starr Report dealing with the sleaze of the Clinton Whitehouse. The only other offering to cause such a stir in our small semi was My Feudal Lord; dropped off to my parents from a relative in transit. But that was later.September 1988. London. I had just entered the Upper Sixth; that quaint British term of yesteryear referring to the final stretch before A’ Levels. And for most of us at Forest School, it was a bittersweet time. A heady mix of premature nostalgia for what would soon be a bygone era and anticipation of no longer being on the precipice of life as we looked forward to forging new alliances while breaking free of parental control. Yet none of us understood the seismic shift in Britain’s multicultural wasteland that was underway. For the country was about to enter the long years of the Rushdie Affair. For my mother, Rushdie’s writing was at fault. As it turned out, she was not a fan of magical realism’s literary vernacular. Something that I shared with her until I happened upon The Master and Margarita. Given that my maternal grandmother’s name featured in the title — this should have been what caught my eye. But truth be told, it was the image of the black cat that reeled me inThe Beeb was full of images of bookstores being firebombed across parts of the country, though I only seemed to register Dillons in central London coming under attack. This was because a few of us studying French had recently begun going ‘into town’ to check out the foreign literature departments of one or two particular establishments; excursions that we hoped hinted at a sophistication beyond our young years. To be honest, we also felt ourselves to be rather hardened bunch; having grown up under Irish Republican Army reprisals against the heavy-handedness of the Thatcher regime. Indeed, the year that brought us The Satanic Verses also saw the British moral crusader Mary Whitehouse try to get The Last Temptation of Christ pulled from national cinemas; though Asian video shops dealing in pirated releases were never put off by these ultimately failed attempts at censorship. And beyond all this, our political awakening had been sparked by the Falklands war some years before and remained focused on government military misadventure.My parents did not think much of the book. For my mother, the writing style was at fault. She accused Rushdie of being under the influence. As it turned out, she was not a fan of magical realism’s literary vernacular. Something that I shared with her until I happened upon The Master and Margarita. Given that my maternal grandmother’s name featured in the title — this should have been what caught my eye. But truth be told, it was the image of the black cat that reeled me in. Plus, the wonderful discovery that this was not just a visual prop but a fully-fledged furry character. As for my dad, I was surprised to discover years later that he thought it had been a mistake for Rushdie to put his name to the book. Especially considering how shortly after the controversy exploded, he took on a relative to defend the artist’s right to freedom of expression. In truth, he likely had his finger more accurately on the pulse than us. For the subsequent Iranian fatwa demanding nothing less than Rushdie’s head-on-a-stick was about much more than blasphemous rumours. Indeed, Tehran never officially banned the book. But it, along with Riyadh, did seek to actively fan the flames of British Muslim discontent against the Thatcher regime that had made its hardline views on immigration well known. Thus the tension was between those who viewed book burning as unnecessary — given that the easiest way to avoid being offended was not to read such material in the first place — and those who wanted to show support for a minority community under fire. This dichotomy was reinforced by the Blair government’s penchant for militarised foreign policy targeting much of the Muslim world that saw, to some extent, criticism of this community falsely conflated with pro-imperialist leanings. Meaning that what eventually transpired was the hijacking of the Rushdie Affair to ‘empower’ extremism while the state seemingly stood impotent against blowback.Nevertheless, when I look at what is happening here in Pakistan I cannot but help think who is going to empower this country’s vulnerable minorities; not on the path towards fanaticism but in terms of securing fundamental rights in the face of a hostile state. Who is going to stand with them as the majority move on from Asia Bibi; from Mashal Khan; from cousins Patras and Sajjid Masih? The writer is the Deputy Managing Editor, Daily Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @humeiweiPublished in Daily Times, March 18th 2018.