Salman Rushdie's Memoir of a "Life Profoundly Disfigured by Terrorism"


In the Wall Street Journal, Reason Contributing Editor Michael C. Moynihan reviews Salman Rushdie's new memoir, Joseph Anton, which is about "a life profoundly disfigured by terrorism." The memoir is a reflection on the fallout from the death sentence issued in 1988 by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini after Rushdie published The Satanic Verses.


The list of putative liberals suddenly concerned with hurt religious "sensibilities" is depressingly long: Joseph Brodsky, John le Carré, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Roald Dahl ("long, unpleasant man with huge strangler's hands"), Germaine Greer, the reliably Islamophilic Prince of Wales, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who coughed up the most astonishing pronouncement of the whole affair: "We must be more tolerant of Muslim anger."…

It is quite stunning to be reminded of the craven "religious leaders" who openly suborned Mr. Rushdie's murder, to no response from the police or courts. Mr. Rushdie hasn't forgotten, though it seems everyone else has. Iqbal Sacranie, one "leader" given substantial airtime and column inches to adjudicate Mr. Rushdie's fate, said that "death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him." In 2005, Mr. Sacranie was knighted at the behest of Tony Blair. Then there is Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), who in 1989 publicly supported the death sentence, saying that Mr. Rushdie "must be killed." In 2010, he was a special guest at comedian Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington, D.C. In a subtle dig at Mr. Stewart, Mr. Rushdie sighs that the musician, who later denied his words, must have understood that "he lived in an age where nobody had a memory."

Read the whole thing here.

As noted yesterday, the bounty on Rushdie's head has just been increased by $500,000.

Reason on Rushdie.

NEXT: Police Chief Pleads Guilty on Felony Charges

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Germaine Greer

    Not Germaine Greer. Not Germaine Greer!

    Ok, it’s official, there is now no hope.

  2. I lost a lost of respect for Rushdie when he chastised the guy who made the Islam Youtube movie everyone is freaking out about.

    Talk about hypocritical. Yeesh.

    1. Dude, I heard that interview, your portrayal doesn’t fit what happened.

      He did a long, hyphenated diatribe about Islam and then made reference to the video’s general production values, but he didn’t commit the unforgivable sin of starting with that critique.

      I agree I was mildly disappointed that he felt the need to say anyting at all, but Rushdie is by no means a Hypocrite.

    2. In fact, it was Steve Inskeep who seemed to be nonplussed with Rushdie’s critique of Islam without any real serious critique of the film. At the end of his statement, Inskeep asks (almost credulously) “So you’re saying that this episode says more about Islam than it says about the filmmakers?”

      “Absolutely”, was Rushdie’s reply.

      Rushdie made no excuses for Islam and went out of his way to condemn it for its medieval, provincial attitudes and lack of interest in “the world.”

      In my opinion, the only reason he made comment about the video’s quality was to juxtappose it with Islam’s sensless and outsized reaction and violence…

      1. I heard the interview. I disagree. Rushdie thinks what this guy did was “malicious” whereas what HE did was a “serious novel”. The idea that Rushdie didn’t attempt to “provoke” Islam with the Satanic Verses is ridiculous, and Hitchens is rolling in his grave to see this guy lack any sympathy for the filmmaker.


        1. I still disagree with your disagreement. I do agree that Rushdie felt that the artistic value of this film was low– and I don’t recall him using the word “malicious”, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. I’ll have to listen to the interview again. However, he never once alluded to the fact that it shouldn’t have been made, that it should be banned, nor did he even remotely suggest that it’s in any way responsible for the violence. He didn’t use any of those progressive weasel/watch words about “going too far” or “passing free speech tests”. At most, Rushdie may be guilty of art-snobbery, but he’s very mindful of free speech. Very mindful of it.

          I’d put my money on Rushdie defending the 1st amendment before I’d put just about anyone sitting in power in Washington.

      2. Maybe we’re referring to a different video. Here’s the one I’m talking about-


        1. Thanks for the link. I’ll watch it directly. I heard his interview on NPR with Steven Inskeep on Morning Edition. I’ll take a look-see.

        2. Hmm, Fuck me… he was kind of waffle-ey on it.

          Interviewer asks him if he has any sympathy for the filmmaker, Rushdie responds “No, because he clearly wanted to get a reaction, and he got one.”

          Rushdie did say at one point that if one believes in free speech that one has to defend people you find outrageous, but the interviewer (is that Matt Lauer, btw?) never asked him the money question: Did this man have a right to make this film, and should he be defended.

          Rushdie is definitely guilty of art-snobbery in that interveiw, absolutely and without a doubt. He compared his work as a “serious novel” to this guy’s low-brow green screen effort…

          I still think Rushdie defends the idea of free speech, but it seems that in Rusdie’s mind, Rushdie made a “serious novel” that he didn’t write as an intentional provocation. I’m going to give Rushdie the benefit of the doubt on this and believe that he’s compartmentalizing his feelings to sympathy alone. That he just doesn’t feel like this guy is an ‘innocent’ victim because his film was designed as a provocation– which, by the way, we don’t know. I’m still betting that Rushdie defends the idea that he had a right to make the film and should be defended on pure free speech grounds.

          1. I still think Rushdie defends the idea of free speech, but it seems that in Rusdie’s mind, Rushdie made a “serious novel” that he didn’t write as an intentional provocation.

            Yeah, that’s where he lost me. I agree with you that he would defend the idea of free speech fully, but to cop his snobbish attitude about how this guys movie was provocative as opposed to his “serious novel” is a load of horseshit.

            Sorry Rushdie, but your novel was provocative and malicious too, particularly to fundamentalist Muslims, and you were well aware of that when you wrote it. And from the little I’ve read of it, I wouldn’t be so sure that yours is a “serious novel” anyways.

          2. rushdie is doing his own little whoopie goldberg thing

  3. Rushdie did get to bang Padma Lakshmi, so there is that.

    1. Rushdie has an eye for the ladies…

    2. THAT is fucking amazing. rushdie didn’t just get beaten by the ugly stick. he got clubbed by it like a baby seal.

  4. “Then there is Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), who in 1989 publicly supported the death sentence, saying that Mr. Rushdie “must be killed.”

    And if I ever lose my head, lop it off, blood so red.
    and if I ever lose my head, oh if… I won’t have to think no more.

    Oh I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow
    Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow

    1. Fuck Yusef and the cat he rode in on

      1. OK so New Years Day…2010….2009….idk…

        At a friends house in Philly. Winter Classic has the Flyers so we’re watching. My friends uncle is like Don Vito from Viva La Bam. Like, dead ringer. Great guy, awesome character.

        TV: And now the National Anthem sung by James Taylor

        Friend’s Uncle:Fuck that guy!

        Me: What you don’t like James Taylor?

        FU: “No you know what he did? He converted to Islam, he’s actually like pro-terrorist and shit.”

        Me: “No that’s Cat Stevens.”

        FU: “yeah? You sure?”

        Me: “Positive. Yeah guy’s an asshole. James Taylors all right”

        1. You’re being unfair to James Taylor. He can still be a dick without being a terror-supporting islamist.

          1. james was schtupping carly simon, a hot piece of ass in her day, and he fathered sally taylor, a hot piece of ass in our day

            he’s doing fine with me

            1. The hell?

              Do you have a fetish for the Joker or something?

              1. ew. i stand corrected. back in the day, she was hawt. i swear.

                i am super serial

                in that picture, she looks like chelsea clinton had a love child with joan, what if god was one of us, osborn

                man, do i stand corrected

    2. i’d like to see yusuf islam covering black sabbath;s war pigs. it’s actually an anti-war song, but yusuf could make it his own. heck, mash it up with peace train


    3. Besides, most of the songs attributed to him in MP3 distributions are actually Seals and Crofts.

  5. Salman Rushdie is also a jackass, supporting gun control after the Aurora massacre:

    1. That’s not him being a jackass; that’s him being a Brit.

      1. Please explain the difference to me.

        1. the former has better teeth

          1. jinx!!!!

            ( i beat you by fractions of a minute… also known as seconds)

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.