Rushdie memoir tells of life under Iranian fatwa

Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:12am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - British author Salman Rushdie's memoir of more than nine years in hiding after Iran's supreme leader issued a death sentence against him hits the shelves on Tuesday, ending the wait for his account of a furor that has echoes across the world today.

"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.

"It doesn't feel good" was his understated reply, but at the time he recalled thinking to himself: "I'm a dead man."

What followed was nearly a decade of life on the run, fearing for his own safety and that of his family.

The fatwa, in response to the 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses", 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.

The topic is back in the headlines after violent protests spread across the Muslim world in response to a U.S.-made video mocking the Prophet Mohammad.

"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."   Continued...

Author Salman Rushdie smiles while addressing the crowd at the 2012 Awards for Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence awarded to Chuck Berry and Leonard Cohen at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts February 26, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi