There are, of course, obvious differences between Boulmerka’s and Rushdie’s stories. Perhaps the most obvious of these, aside from the complex matter of gender, are their disparate vocations. As stated previously, Boulmerka is an internationally acclaimed middle distance runner and Rushdie an internationally acclaimed writer. No less important, however, are their varied cultural memberships. Boulmerka is an Algerian nationalist with considerable international experience who enjoys at best a tenuous standing among her more fundamentalist countrymen; by contrast, Rushdie is an expatriate of India living in England who is despised by many, but certainly not all, in his homeland and the rest of the Islamic world and who is regarded rather suspiciously, if not contemptuously, by many in the West. There is further an important difference in degree in the punishments meted out to both by religious officials of the Muslim world. Rushdie, of course, was the subject of a fatwa calling for his assassination for penning passages in the Satanic Verses that were adjudged blasphemous to followers of Islam and which forced him to go underground.3 By contrast, Boulmerka’s penalty for violating purdah was the issuance of a kofr (official censure), which although it did not call for her
head did subject her to increased ridicule and even physical attack that forced her to live and train in exile for a time.