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Rushdie releases memoirs in shadow of anti-Islam film protests

3 min

Salman Rushdie on Tuesday released a memoir documenting the nine years he spent in hiding while under a fatwa for his book 'The Satanic Verses'. Its release comes as an anti-Islam film has sparked violent protests across the Muslim world.


As violent protests over an anti-Islam video sweep the Muslim world, Salman Rushdie on Tuesday released his memoirs of the nine years he spent in hiding while under a fatwa for his book "The Satanic Verses".

The death sentence was issued in response to the 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses" and turned Rushdie into a household name that will forever be linked with the tussle between the right to freedom of expression and the need to respect religious sensitivities.

"I always said that what happened to me was a prologue and there will be many, many more episodes like it," Rushdie told the Daily Telegraph at the launch of his memoir.

"Clearly, (the film is) a piece of crap, is very poorly done and is malevolent. To react to it with this kind of violence is just ludicrously inappropriate. People are being attacked who had nothing to do with it and that is not right."

"Joseph Anton: A Memoir" opens with the moment when Rushdie, already a member of London's literary elite, received a call from a journalist asking for his reaction to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, calling for his head.

The bounty on his head was increased to $3.3 million this weekend by a state-linked Iranian religious foundation.  Its leader argued that had Rushdie been killed, later cases of Islam being insulted would have been avoided.

With at least 19 people killed in a week of furious protests over the film, Rushdie's candid memoir of the years spent on the run after he too was accused of mocking Islam has an added resonance.

His memoir, named after the pseudonym used by Rushdie while in hiding and written in the third person, chronicles the following nine years in which he was forced to move constantly between safe houses under armed guard.

Rushdie survived by engaging in the literary world - writing novels, newspaper articles and reviews and receiving awards. He travelled where he could and lobbied for his freedom, and ironically became an international celebrity.

But in the dark early days, his frustration was clear and friends who saw him then said he looked "a beaten man".

"I am gagged and imprisoned," he recalls writing in his diary. "I can't even speak. I want to kick a football in a park with my son. Ordinary, banal life: my impossible dream."

But 14 years later, Rushdie says writers who criticise Islam are still being attacked with a "medieval vocabulary".

"If you look at the way in which free expression is being attacked by religious extremism, the things of which these people are accused is always the same -- it's blasphemy, heresy, insult, offence," he told the BBC.

"The only way of living in a free society is to feel that you have the right to say and do stuff."

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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