Innocence of Muslims

Salman Rushdie on "Innocence of Muslims" and Defending Freedom of Speech

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Is this really worth murdering people over?

Over at the New York Times today, editorialist Bill Keller cites author Salman Rushdie's views on the importance of defending free speech in the face of intimidation. As Reason readers will recall, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 urging Muslims to murder Rushdie for allegedly blaspheming Muhammad in his novel The Satanic Verses. Keller reports:

Of the current confrontation, [Rushdie] says, "I think it's very important that we hold our ground. It's very important to say, 'We live like this.' " Rushdie made his post-fatwa life in America in part because he reveres the freedoms, including the freedom, not so protected in other Western democracies, to say hateful, racist, blasphemous things.

"Terrible ideas, reprehensible ideas, do not disappear if you ban them," he told me. "They go underground. They acquire a kind of glamour of taboo. In the harsh light of day, they are out there and, like vampires, they die in the sunlight."

And so he would have liked a more robust White House defense of the rights that made the noxious video possible.

"It's not for the American government to regret what American citizens do. They should just say, 'This is not our affair and the [violent] response is completely inappropriate.' "

Absolutely correct. As I explained in my column,"No one has the right to a world in which he is never despised" last week:

…the only task that American officials have is to explain that the American government does not endorse any religious or anti-religious views and that Americans are free to say any damned thing that they want.

See Reason's extensive coverage of the "Innocence of Muslims" controversy here.