Salman Rushdie Reflects on His 20-year-old Fatwa

It’s been almost two decades since author Salman Rushdie was the subject of a death threat from Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini because of the publishing of his book The Satanic Verses. (Valentine’s Day will be the actual anniversary.)

He reflects on the fatwa in the latest issue of Newsweek:

The Ayatollah is long dead and Rushdie has stopped worrying about his safety, although the fatwa has never been withdrawn. On Sunday night, he questioned the accuracy of the Quran, used profanity when referring to Islamic leaders and bragged about once wearing a T-shirt that read, “Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime.”

Calling himself an early victim of attempted censorship, Rushdie likened his place in history to a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, “The Birds.” He recalled a scene in which Tippi Hedren spotted a crow outside her window. Hedren paid little attention until she noticed hundreds more had arrived.

“I think I was the first crow,” Rushdie said.

Few of his enemies knew anything about “Satanic Verses,” Rushdie says. Years after he was out of hiding, Rushdie met a young “British-Asian” guy who confided that he had once been a demonstrator against the author.

“Then I read your book,” the man told him, “and I couldn’t see what the fuss was about.”

I tried reading the book once. I didn’t get very far… but I did get to meet Rushdie at the Harvard “New Humanism” conference last year. Before he left the church hall in which he spoke, I thrust an open book out at him and he signed it.

Victory is mine!

(Thanks to J for the link!)

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  • Greta Christina

    I tried reading the book once. I didn’t get very far…

    I heartily encourage you to try again. The book kicks ass. I’m not much of a fiction reader, but The Satanic verses is a hell of a read. You have to deal with his whole magic realism universe, which is puzzling at first and takes some time to figure out… but it’s totally rewarding.

  • Cannonball Jones

    I must admit I never got through it myself. I bought it when I was in high school just because of the controversy and it just wasn’t what I was into reading at the time. Will definitely give it another shot seeing as we’ve reached the anniversary.

  • absent sway

    The man is talented. “Midnight’s Children” blew me away so I’m looking forward to “Satanic Verses.” I have a reading list a mile long, which is why I haven’t gotten to it just yet…

  • baal

    a great read.being an immigrant from india i could identify with the book a lot.