Salman Rushdie to BBC Radio 4 Today on the recent protests in the Muslim world against a video clip posted on Youtube:
...means a number of things. In the case of Satanic Verses, it meant that we stood up for what needed to be defended and we managed to defend it. In a larger sense, it's more problematic. The events surrounding the Satanic Verses created a climate of fear that has not dissipated that makes it harder for books -- not even books critical of Islam -- books, anything about Islam, to be published.
This idea of respect, which is a code word for fear is something we have to overcome And I very much felt that what happened to me was a harbinger of many things that followed. And I think you can draw a direct line of connection from the entire Satanic Verses controversy to the 9/11 attacks, to the 7/7 attacks in England to what's happening today across the Muslim world -- this extraordinary thin-skinned, paranoid reaction to a piece of garbage, which any rational person would say, yes, that is a piece of garbage and we can ignore it...
Today presenter James Naughtie: You mean the film?
Salman Rushdie: ....this video or clip from an alleged film which may or may not exist. Any reasonable person would say, yes, that's crap, it's an ugly crap, and we should just dismiss it as unimportant and proceed with our day. But the idea that you react to that by holding an entire nation and its diplomatic representatives responsible, when they weren't remotely aware of, is ugly and wrong.
I think what we have to do is to insist -- all of us, all of us -- that the culture of this country is one of open discourse and the point about open discourse is that people will constantly say things you don't like. But if you can't defend the right of people to say things you don't like, then you don't believe in free speech. And often in the free speech lobby you find yourself defending things you detest. But you know there is no trick to defend stuff you agree with or stuff that particularly doesn't get up your nose. It's when somebody does something that you really despise and loathe, when somebody says something like that, that's when you discover if you believe in free speech.
And I think we do believe in free speech and maybe we need to stand up for it more clearly.
I think there is certain confusion. I think what happened in Libya -- the attack on the embassy, the killing of the ambassador -- may not have been related to this idiotic video but may have been a pre-planned Salafi attack, an indication of this is that the flag that was put out on the embassy in Libya is the flag that is very frequently used by Al-Qaeda. I think that's a different thing. I think that today is Friday and today across the Muslim world there is this absurdly hysterical protest about a piece of garbage that really needs to be named as such. And I think the Muslim world needs to learn that to react every single time to pathetic, deliberate provocation -- not even impressive provocation -- in this way, to believe that in the face of this minor, little pinprick that it is ok to attack property, to threaten people, maybe even take life, that is not acceptable. It is not acceptable, it is an ugly reaction and it needs to be named as ugly.