Salman Rushdie: Free Speech Is Under Attack - Updated with Comments on Anti-Muslim Filmmaker
Few people are more qualified to talk about free speech than author Salman Rushdie.
The release of his 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses" generated a fatwa for his death, forcing him to hire security and lead a protected existence for years.
Now, Rushdie is speaking out against how religious extremists are clamping down on free speech. Simply put, he doubts "Satanic Verses" would find a publisher today.
Rushdie is hitting the publicity circuit to promote "Joseph Anton," his new memoir about living under a fatwa. The author has yet to use his Twitter account to directly address the matter of the anti-Muslim filmmaker being blamed by the White House for the current wave of Middle Eastern violence.
"The only way of living in a free society is to feel that you have the right to say and do stuff," he said....
"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 - it's this medieval vocabulary.
"We're in a difficult place because there's a lot of fear and nervousness around."
UPDATE: On "Today," Rushdie directly addressed the anti-Muslim filmmaker whose work is being blamed by the White House for causing the current wave of violence across the Middle East:
"He did it on purpose," Rushdie said. "I mean, he set out to create a response, and he got it in spades...."
Although Rushdie's belief in free speech remains unshaken, he made it clear that he found it hard to sympathize with "Innocence of Muslims."
"One of the problems with defending free speech is you often have to defend people that you find to be outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting," Rushdie said.
"He's done something malicious, and that's a very different thing from writing a serious novel, you know," Rushdie added. "He's clearly set out to provoke, and he's obviously unleashed a much bigger reaction than he hoped for."