"I feel very proud to be part of this resistance," says the acclaimed British writer Salman Rushdie reflecting on his book The Satanic Verses and the years of the fatwa. "Today people are much weaker. I wonder if such an act of collective solidarity would ever happen again."
"It wasn't only about me. It was a moment, when a line had to held when you could not conceive the fight", says the author of The Satanic Verses, Salman Rusdie, in this outtake from a longer interview about his life and work.
It is an illusion, albeit a powerful one, to believe that a free exchange of ideas exists in any pure form in the West. Racial, ethnic, and religious minorities rarely have possessed the same opportunities to shape public opinion as those with political power or cultural capital.
If Iran's Rushdie fatwa was accepted at face value, shouldn't the Iranian fatwa against nuclear weapons be interpreted likewise? The New York Times thought so when it wrote that "American officials say they believe that Ayatollah Khamenei exercises full control over Iran's nuclear program."
Although I've been reading and reviewing books for several decades, not until Salman Rushdie's memoir, Joseph Anton, have I realized how some part of me continues to look at books through callow eyes, to assess them naively.
Those of us who believe in the right to say what you think without being threatened can only show that there are some beliefs that we cherish, too. We can show that we believe in the right of clever writers to write good books, and the right of stupid fantasists to make bad films.