Salman Rushdie

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.

Sir Salman Rushdie (born Ahmed Salman Rushdie, Urdu: أحمد سلمان رشدی, Hindi: अह्मद सलमान रश्डी on 19 June 1947) is an Indian-born British novelist and essayist. Most of his work is set on the Indian subcontinent.

See also:
Midnight's Children (1981)
The Satanic Verses (1988)
The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999)


Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved; perhaps it is because of our sense of what is the case is constructed from such inadequate materials that we defend it so fiercely, even to the death.
I do not envy people who think they have a complete explanation of the world, for the simple reason that they are obviously wrong.
The only people who see the whole picture are the ones who step outside the frame.


  • God, Satan, Paradise, and Hell all vanished one day in my fifteenth year, when I quite abruptly lost my faith. ... and afterwards, to prove my new-found atheism, I bought myself a rather tasteless ham sandwich, and so partook for the first time of the forbidden flesh of the swine. No thunderbolt arrived to strike me down. ... From that day to this I have thought of myself as a wholly secular person.
    • "In God We Trust" (1985)
  • Nowadays, however, a powerful tribe of clerics has taken over Islam. These are the contemporary Thought Police. They have turned Muhammad into a perfect being, his life into a perfect life, his revelation into the unambiguous, clear event it originally was not. Powerful taboos have been erected. One may not discuss Muhammad as if he were human, with human virtues and weaknesses. One may not discuss the growth of Islam as a historical phenomenon, as an ideology born out of its time. These are the taboos against which The Satanic Verses has transgressed (these and one other; I also tried to write about the place of women in Islamic society, and in the Koran). It is for this breach of taboo that the novel is being anathematized, fulminated against, and set alight.
  • The zealots also attack me by false analogy, comparing my book to pornography and demanding a ban on both. Many Islamic spokesmen have compared my work to anti-Semitism. But intellectual dissent is neither pornographic nor racist. I have tried to give a secular, humanist vision of the birth of a great world religion. For this, apparently, I should be tried under the Race Relations Act, or if not that perhaps the Public Order Act. Any old act will do. The justification is that I have "given offense." But the giving of offense cannot be a basis for censorship, or freedom of expression would perish instantly. And many of us who were revolted by the Bradford flames will feel that the offense done to our principles is at least as great as any offense caused to those who burned my book.
  • It is a funny view of the world that a book can cause riots.
    • (When asked if he apprehended riots) Interview with Shrabani Basu (September 1988), quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism\\. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 32
  • The responsibility for violence lies with those who perpetrate it.
    • "In Good Faith" (1990), p. 19
  • The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas — uncertainty, progress, change — into crimes.
    • Herbert Reade Memorial Lecture (6 February 1990)
  • Those who oppose the novel most vociferously today are of the opinion that intermingling with a different culture will inevitably weaken and ruin their own. I am of the opposite opinion. The Satanic Verses celebrates hybridity, impurity, intermingling, the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures, ideas, politics, movies, songs. It rejoices in mongrelization and fears the absolutism of the Pure. Melange, hotchpotch, a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world. It is the great possibility that mass migration gives the world... The Satanic Verses is for change-by-fusion, change-by-conjoining. It is a love song to our mongrel selves.
    • Imaginary Homelands (1992)
  • What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.
    • Imaginary Homelands p. 391 (1992)
  • It may be argued that the past is a country from which we have all emigrated, that its loss is part of our common humanity. Which seems to be self-evidently true; but I suggest that the writer who is out-of-country and even out-of-language may experience this loss in an intensified form. It is made more concrete for him by the physical fact of discontinuity, of his present being in a different place from his past, of his being "elsewhere"... human beings do not perceive things whole; we are not gods but wounded creatures, cracked lenses, capably only of fractured perceptions. Partial beings, in all the senses of that phrase. Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved; perhaps it is because of our sense of what is the case is constructed from such inadequate materials that we defend it so fiercely, even to the death.
    • Imaginary Homelands (1992)
  • I don't think there is a need for an entity like God in my life.
  • I do not envy people who think they have a complete explanation of the world, for the simple reason that they are obviously wrong.
    • Salman Rushdie — Talking with David Frost (1993)
  • Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination of the heart.
    • The Hindu (26 February 1995)
  • To make Gandhi appeal to the Western market, he had to be sanctified and turned into Christ – an odd fate for a crafty Gujarati lawyer – and the history of one of the century's greatest revolutions had to be mangled.
    • Salman Rushdie, quoted in Patrick French - Liberty or Death : India's Journey to Independence and Division (1998)
  • The only people who see the whole picture are the ones who step outside the frame.
    • The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999)
  • The fundamentalist seeks to bring down a great deal more than buildings. Such people are against, to offer just a brief list, freedom of speech, a multi-party political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women's rights, pluralism, secularism, short skits, dancing, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex. There are tyrants, not Muslims. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that we should now define ourselves not only by what we are for but by what we are against. I would reverse that proposition, because in the present instance what we are against is a no brainer. Suicidist assassins ram wide-bodied aircraft into the World Trade Center and Pentagon and kill thousands of people: um, I'm against that. But what are we for? What will we risk our lives to defend? Can we unanimously concur that all the items in the preceding list — yes, even the short skirts and the dancing — are worth dying for? The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable distribution of the world's resources, movies, music, freedom of thought, beauty, love. These will be our weapons. Not by making war but by the unafraid way we choose to live shall we defeat them. How to defeat terrorism? Don't be terrorized. Don't let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.
    • Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992–2002
I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I've gone which would not have happened if I had not come.
These are just a few sample quotes; for more quotes from this work see Midnight's Children
  • Children are the vessels into which adults pour their poison.
  • Who what am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I've gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each "I", everyone of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you'll have to swallow a world.
Main article: The Satanic Verses
  • Names, once they are in common use, quickly become mere sounds, their etymology being buried, like so many of the earth's marvels, beneath the dust of habit.
  • The world, somebody wrote, is the place we prove real by dying in it.

Address at Columbia University (1991)

Too many people had spent too long demonizing or totemizing me to listen seriously to what I had to say.
Excerpts From Rushdie's Address: 1,000 Days 'Trapped Inside a Metaphor' The New York Times (12 December 1991)
Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.
  • For many people, I've ceased to be a human being. I've become an issue, a bother, an "affair." ... And has it really been so long since religions persecuted people, burning them as heretics, drowning them as witches, that you can't recognize religious persecution when you see it? ... What is my single life worth? Despair whispers in my ear: "Not a lot." But I refuse to give in to despair ... because ... I know that many people do care, and are appalled by the ... upside-down logic of the post-fatwa world, in which a ... novelist can be accused of having savaged or "mugged" a whole community, becoming its tormentor (instead of its ... victim) and the scapegoat for ... its discontents... . (What minority is smaller and weaker than a minority of one?)
  • I determined to make my peace with Islam, even at the cost of my pride. Those who were surprised and displeased by what I did perhaps failed to see that ... I wanted to make peace between the warring halves of the world, which were also the warring halves of my soul... .
    The really important conversations I had in this period were with myself.
    I said: Salman, you must send a message loud enough to ... make ordinary Muslims see that you aren't their enemy, and you must make the West understand a little more of the complexity of Muslim culture ..., and start thinking a little less stereotypically... . And I said to myself: Admit it, Salman, the Story of Islam has a deeper meaning for you than any of the other grand narratives. Of course you're no mystic, mister... . No supernaturalism, no literalist orthodoxies ... for you. But Islam doesn't have to mean blind faith. It can mean what it always meant in your family, a culture, a civilization, as open-minded as your grandfather was, as delightedly disputatious as your father was. ... Don't let the zealots make Muslim a terrifying word, I urged myself; remember when it meant family. ...
    I reminded myself that I had always argued that it was necessary to develop the nascent concept of the "secular Muslim," who, like the secular Jew, affirmed his membership of the culture while being separate from the theology... . But, Salman, I told myself, you can't argue from outside the debating chamber. You've got to cross the threshold, go inside the room, and then fight for your humanized, historicized, secularized way of being a Muslim.
  • Too many people had spent too long demonizing or totemizing me to listen seriously to what I had to say. In the West, some "friends" turned against me, calling me by yet another set of insulting names. Now I was spineless, pathetic, debased; I had betrayed myself, my Cause; above all, I had betrayed them .
    I also found myself up against the granite, heartless certainties of Actually Existing Islam, by which I mean the political and priestly power structure that presently dominates and stifles Muslim societies. Actually Existing Islam has failed to create a free society anywhere on Earth, and it wasn't about to let me, of all people, argue in favor of one.
  • I reluctantly concluded that there was no way for me to help bring into being the Muslim culture I'd dreamed of, the progressive, irreverent, skeptical, argumentative, playful and unafraid culture which is what I've always understood as freedom. Not me, not in this lifetime, no chance. Actually Existing Islam, which has all but deified its Prophet, a man who always fought passionately against such deification, which has supplanted a priest-free religion by a priest-ridden one, which makes literalism a weapon and redescription a crime, will never let the likes of me in.
  • Ibn Rushd's ideas were silenced in their time. And throughout the Muslim world today, progressive ideas are in retreat. Actually Existing Islam reigns supreme, and just as the recently destroyed "Actually Existing Socialism" of the Soviet terror-state was horrifically unlike the utopia of peace and equality of which democratic socialists have dreamed, so also is Actually Existing Islam a force to which I have never given in, to which I cannot submit.
    There is a point beyond which conciliation looks like capitulation. I do not believe I passed that point, but others have thought otherwise.
  • "Our lives teach us who we are." I have learned the hard way that when you permit anyone else's description of reality to supplant your own — and such descriptions have been raining down on me, from security advisers, governments, journalists, Archbishops, friends, enemies, mullahs — then you might as well be dead. Obviously, a rigid, blinkered, absolutist world view is the easiest to keep hold of, whereas the fluid, uncertain, metamorphic picture I've always carried about is rather more vulnerable. Yet I must cling with all my might to ... my own soul; must hold on to its mischievous, iconoclastic, out-of-step clown-instincts, no matter how great the storm. And if that plunges me into contradiction and paradox, so be it; I've lived in that messy ocean all my life. I've fished in it for my art. This turbulent sea was the sea outside my bedroom window in Bombay. It is the sea by which I was born, and which I carry within me wherever I go.
    "Free speech is a non-starter," says one of my Islamic extremist opponents. No, sir, it is not. Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.

Salon interview (1996)

Nothing really improves us. Whatever improves one person will disimprove another.
"The Salon Interview: Salman Rushdie: When life becomes a bad novel"
  • When I was growing up, everyone around me was fond of fooling around with words. It was certainly common in my family, but I think it is typical of Bombay, and maybe of India, that there is a sense of play in the way people use language. Most people in India are multilingual, and if you listen to the urban speech patterns there you'll find it's quite characteristic that a sentence will begin in one language, go through a second language and end in a third. It's the very playful, very natural result of juggling languages. You are always reaching for the most appropriate phrase.
  • It's fun to read things when you don't know all the words. Even children love it. One of the things any great children's writer will tell you is that children like it if in books designed for their age group there is a vocabulary just slightly bigger than theirs. So they come up against weird words, and the weird words excite them. If you describe a small girl in a story as "loquacious," it works so much better than “talkative.” And then some little girl will read the book and her sister will be shooting her mouth off and she will say to her sister, "Don't be so loquacious." It is a whole new weapon in her arsenal.
  • Nothing really improves us. Whatever improves one person will disimprove another. Some people are paralyzed by the consciousness of death, other people live with it. ... The fatwa certainly made me think about it a lot more than I ever had. I guess I know I'm going to die, but then, so are you. And one of the things that I thought a lot about at the time of the fatwa and ever since is that quite a few of the people I really care about died during this period, all about the same age as I am, and they were not under a death sentence. They just died, of lung cancer, AIDS, whatever. It occurred to me that you don't need a fatwa, it can happen anytime.


  • I've been worrying about God a little bit lately. It seems as if he's been lashing out, you know, destroying cities, annihilating places. It seems like he's been in a bad mood. And I think it has to do with the quality of lovers he's been getting. If you look at the people who love God now, you know, if I was God, I'd need to destroy something.
    • Real Time with Bill Maher TV show (7 October 2005)
  • There were six hundred thousand Indian troops in Kashmir but the pogrom of the pandits was not prevented, why was that. Three and a half lakhs of human beings arrived in Jammu as displaced persons and for many months the government did not provide shelters or relief or even register their names, why was that.
  • The phrase of "crackdown" that the Indian army uses really is a euphemism of mass destruction. And rape. And brutalisation. That happens all the time. It's still happening now. … The decision to treat all Kashmiris as if they're potential terrorists is what has unleashed this, the kind of "holocaust" against the Kashmiri people. And we know ourselves, from most recent events in Europe, how important it is to resists treating all Muslims as if they're terrorists, but the Indian army has taken the decision to do the opposite of that, to actually decide that everybody is a potential combatant to treat them in that way. And the level of brutality is quite spectacular. And, frankly, without that the jihadists would have had very little response from the Kashmiri people who were not really traditionally interested in radical Islam. So now they're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, and that's the tragedy of the place.
  • In an ideal world you could reunite the Pakistan-occupied part of Kashmir with the Indian-occupied part and restore the old borders. You could have both India and Pakistan agreeing to guarantee those borders, demilitarise the area, and to invest in it economically. In a sane world that would happen but we don't live in a sane world.
  • 'Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. 'This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. 'I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. 'Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.
  • It is clear that India has not behaved at all well in Kashmir; that the Indian military forces seem like, feel like and behave like an occupying army; that there are too many accusations of violence, rape, and murder for it all to be made up; and the Pakistani side has constantly exacerbated the situation by the use of jihadist groups, and by the funding of groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad and so on.
  • I have to say it has been alarming to see publishers looking to bowdlerise the work of such people as Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming [...] The idea that James Bond could be made politically correct is almost comical. I think that has to be resisted. Books have to come to us from their time and be of their time, and if that's difficult to take, don’t read them. Read another book, but don't try and remake yesterday's work in the light of today's attitudes.
  • The freedom to publish, of course, is also the freedom to read, the freedom to write what you want, to be able to choose what you want to read and not have it decided for you externally — and the freedom to publish books that ought to be published and sometimes are difficult to publish because of pressure from this or that group.

The Hindu interview (2012)

Interviewed by Mukund Padmanabhan (published 6 October 2012; revised 18 October 2016).
  • There is no right in the world not to be offended. That right simply doesn't exist. In a free society, an open society, people have strong opinions, and these opinions very often clash. In a democracy, we have to learn to deal with this. And this is true about novels, it's true about cartoons, it's true about all these products.
  • A question I have often asked is, "What would an inoffensive political cartoon look like?" What would a respectful cartoon look like? The form requires disrespect and so if we are going to have in the world things like cartoons and satire, we just have to accept it as part of the price of freedom.
  • The mistake of the West was to put the Sauds on the throne of Saudi Arabia and give them control of the world's oil fortune, which they then used to propagate Wahhabi Islam. This very minor extremist cult, Wahhabism, was suddenly propagated across the Muslim world through madrassas and has created generations now who are steeped in this harsher, more paranoid, more confrontational version of Islam.

The Guardian interview (2021)

Interviewed in "Salman Rushdie: 'I am stupidly optimistic – it got me through those bad years'" by Hadley Freeman (published 15 May 2021).
  • [On the period immediately after the Iranian fatwa when Rushdie was in hiding.] I really resist the idea of being dragged back to that period of time that you insist on bringing up.
  • I'm not a geopolitical entity. I'm someone writing in a room.
  • One of the benefits of being a writer, I think, is that if what you're doing for a living is examining your life, hopefully by the time you reach this advanced age, you understand something about yourself and why you think what you think. Of course, other writers go in different directions.
  • I grew up in a very female world with three younger sisters, so I was always comfortable around women, which was one of the reasons I hated my boarding school [Rugby], because there were no girls or women there. I think a lot of men are scared of women, and if the women are competent, brilliant or self-assured, they become even scarier. But to me, that's enormously attractive. I can't dream of having as a friend, or anything else in my life, a woman who is not those things.
  • [Is there more support for censorship now?] I don't know if there's more of it, but it's certainly more obvious. There's a youthful progressive movement, much of which is extremely valuable, but there does seem to be within it an acceptance that certain ideas should be suppressed, and I just think that's worrying. Wherever there has been censorship, the first people to suffer from it are underprivileged minorities. So if in the name of underprivileged minorities you wish to endorse a suppression of wrongthink, it's a slippery slope.
  • I'll tell you quite truthfully that the great wound in my life [from then] is India, because of the way I and my work have been treated there

The New Yorker interview (2023)

Interviewed in "The Defiance of Salman Rushdie" by David Remnick (published 6 February 2023).
  • [On meeting E.M. Forster on several occasions while an undergraduate at King's College, Cambridge] He was very encouraging when he heard that I wanted to be a writer [...] And he said something which I treasured, which is that he felt that the great novel of India would be written by somebody from India with a Western education.
    I hugely admire A Passage to India, because it was an anti-colonial book at a time when it was not at all fashionable to be anti-colonial [...] What I kind of rebelled against was Forsterian English, which is very cool and meticulous. I thought, If there's one thing that India is not, it's not cool. It's hot and noisy and crowded and excessive. How do you find a language that's like that?
  • [Since the fatwa of 1989, and not allowing it to affect his writings.] There was a moment when there was a 'me' floating around that had been invented to show what a bad person I was [...] "Evil." "Arrogant." "Terrible writer." "Nobody would've read him if there hadn't been an attack against his book." Et cetera. I've had to fight back against that false self. My mother used to say that her way of dealing with unhappiness was to forget it. She said, "Some people have a memory. I have a forget-ory."...
    If somebody arrives from another planet who has never heard of anything that happened to me, and just has the books on the shelf and reads them chronologically, I don't think that alien would think, Something terrible happened to this writer in 1989. The books go on their own journey. And that was really an act of will.
  • [Rushdie was stabbed in August 2022, leading to life-changing injuries, by an admirer of Ayatollah Khomeini. His novel, Victory City, was about to be published.] I'm hoping that to some degree it might change the subject. I've always thought that my books are more interesting than my life [...] Unfortunately, the world appears to disagree.
  • I'm going to tell you really truthfully, I'm not thinking about the long term [...] I'm thinking about little step by little step. I just think, Bop till you drop.
  • I've got nothing else to do. I would like to have a second skill, but I don't. I always envied writers like Günter Grass, who had a second career as a visual artist. I thought how nice it must be to spend a day wrestling with words, and then get up and walk down the street to your art studio and become something completely else. I don't have that. So, all I can do is this. As long as there's a story that I think is worth giving my time to, then I will. When I have a book in my head, it's as if the rest of the world is in its correct shape.



Quotes about Rushdie

Rushdie shows us with what fantasy our sort of history must now be written — if, that is, we are to penetrate it, and perhaps even save it. ~ Malcolm Bradbury
In alphabetical order by author or source.
I never called for the death of Salman Rushdie; nor backed the Fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini — and still don't. … I foolishly made light of certain provocative questions. … Certainly I regret giving those sorts of responses now. ~ Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam)
  • [Y]ou will find elements of magic realism in literature from all over the world—not just in Latin America. You will find it in Scandinavian sagas, in African poetry, in Indian literature written in English, in American literature written by ethnic minorities. Writers like Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsolver, and Alice Hoffman all use this style.
  • If a blasphemer [Rushdie] can be given the title "Sir" by the West despite the fact he has hurt the feelings of Muslims, then a mujahid [Osama bin Laden] who has been fighting for Islam against the Russians, Americans and British must be given the lofty title of Islam, Saifullah.
  • Rushdie shows us with what fantasy our sort of history must now be written — if, that is, we are to penetrate it, and perhaps even save it.
  • 'I never thought of myself as a writer about religion until religion came after me', Salman Rushdie says. 'Religion was part of my subject, of course... nevertheless... I had to confront what was confronting me and to decide what I wanted to stand up for in the face of what so vociferously, repressively and violently stood against me. At that time it was difficult to persuade people that the attack on The Satanic Verses was part of a broader global assault on writers, artists, and fundamental freedoms."
  • In the face of this ukase, which amounts to a life sentence as well as a death sentence on a reflective, autonomous individual, no wonder that people change the subject and take refuge in precedent or analogy. It's natural to do so when faced with a challenge that is so alarmingly singular. Yes, there are other death squads and assassins and proscriptions and archipelagos and all the rest of it. Yes, there are existing campaigns devoted to the release of so-and-so and the freedom of this-and-that. But when last did a head of government claim to be soliciting the murder of a citizen of another country, for pay, for the offence of literary production? I have heard great argument about it and about, from reminiscences of the Trotsky assassination to Christopher Hill's recall of the Papal incitement against Gloriana, but evermore came out by the same door as in I went. The Salman Rushdie case has no analogue and no precedent.
  • [Published six-months after the near-fatal stabbing of Rushdie in August 2022] As it happens, he had cause to worry. In the intervening years, support for Rushdie and for free expression has narrowed ...
    An August 19 New York City rally of writers gathered in support of Rushdie reprised a 1989 demonstration against the fatwa in which Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Christopher Hitchens, and others participated, but the later iteration "paled in comparison," a Le Monde editorial remarked. Across social media, writers expressed concern for Rushdie's health, but an instinctual solidarity with him and the sense—so strong at the time of the fatwa—that his fate spoke to all of us as members of a liberal society did not materialize. Even among his defenders, free speech took a back seat.
    Why? One reason is fear. In 2009, the British writer Hanif Kureishi told Prospect Magazine that "nobody would have the balls today to write The Satanic Verses." He might have added that no one would have the balls to defend it. Most writers, Kureishi continued, live quietly, and "they don’t want a bomb in the letterbox."
  • I admire Salman Rushdie enormously. Before Midnight's Children, writers of Indian origin writing in English were encouraged by convention to write of their world with detachment and irony. Their method was reductive. They treated their characters as though they were uncomplicated. With Midnight's Children, Rushdie breaks down those conventions. He aggrandizes, and that's marvellously healthy. The sections on Bombay have a superb excess of energy. Many of the writers before him tried, very unfortunately, to "tame" India for foreign readers. The other interesting thing about Salman Rushdie is that he discards British models. His fiction is closer to that of Günter Grass and Márquez than to Forster.
    • 1987 interview in Conversations with Bharati Mukherjee Edited by Bradley C. Edwards (2009)
  • To the Editors:
    As writers and scholars from the Islamic world we are appalled by the vilification, bookbanning and threats of physical violence against Salman Rushdie, the gifted author of Midnight's Children, Shame, and The Satanic Verses. This campaign is done in the name of Islam, although none of it does Islam any credit. Certainly Muslims and others are entitled to protest against The Satanic Verses if they feel the novel offends their religion and cultural sensibilities. But to carry protest and debate over into the realm of bigoted violence is in fact antithetical to Islamic traditions of learning and tolerance. We deplore and regret this sort of thing, and we reaffirm our belief in universal principles of rational discussion and freedom of expression.
  • I asked him, "How did you manage to keep on writing when writing demands self-abandonment, when you’re being hunted, you're being persecuted?” He said, "You should tell them, 'Fuck you.'" And I said, "Did you know how to say 'fuck you' before it all occurred?" And he said, "No, I didn't know." So I said, "This turmoil taught you to detach and to be able to say 'fuck you' and keep on writing?" And he said, "Yes, this is what you have to learn from this experience."
  • In Islam there is a line between let's say freedom and the line which is then transgressed into immorality and irresponsibility and I think as far as this writer is concerned, unfortunately, he has been irresponsible with his freedom of speech. Salman Rushdie or indeed any writer who abuses the prophet, or indeed any prophet, under Islamic law, the sentence for that is actually death. It's got to be seen as a deterrent, so that other people should not commit the same mistake again.
    • Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), as quoted in "Yussuf Islam, Formerly Cat Stevens, Expresses Support For Rushdie Death Sentence" in The Christian Science Monitor (1989)
  • I never called for the death of Salman Rushdie; nor backed the Fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini — and still don't. The book itself destroyed the harmony between peoples and created an unnecessary international crisis.
    When asked about my opinion regarding blasphemy, I could not tell a lie and confirmed that — like both the Torah and the Gospel — the Qur'an considers it, without repentance, as a capital offense. The Bible is full of similar harsh laws if you're looking for them. However, the application of such Biblical and Qur'anic injunctions is not to be outside of due process of law, in a place or land where such law is accepted and applied by the society as a whole.
  • Almost all Muslims, including the most enlightened, feel offended by Rushdie's novel or, rather, by reports they have read or heard about it. Very few people have actually read the dense and tortuous book, but they do not have to. The very idea of using the prophet Muhammad as a character in a novel is painful to many Muslims. The entire Islamic system consists of the so-called Hodud, or limits beyond which one should simply not venture. Islam does not recognize unlimited freedom of expression. Call them taboos, if you like, but Islam considers a wide variety of topics as permanently closed. Most Muslims are prepared to be broad-minded about most things but never anything that even remotely touches their faith... To Muslims religion is not just a part of life. It is, in fact, life that is a part of religion. Muslims cannot understand a concept that has no rules, no limits. The Western belief in human rights, which seems to lack limits, is alien to Islamic traditions... The fact that Rushdie propagated his heresy in a book is of especial significance to Muslims. Islam is the religion of the book par excellence. Few cultures hold the written and printed word in so much awe as Muslims, even though the vast majority are illiterate. When a Muslim wants to clinch an argument he says, 'It is written.'
    • Amir Taheri, "Khomeini's Scapegoat", The Times, London (February 13, 1989)
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: