Salman Rushdie talked to Der Spiegel about his memoir of the fatwa years.
Some senior cops didn’t approve of him much.
I wasn’t like the others, those who deserved protection because they had done something for the country. I was someone who received protection because he had made trouble. In their view, it was my own fault that the Muslims were after me. Some members of the police, not all of them, didn’t understand how anyone could be willing to cause such a fuss for such an far-off issue. At least if my book had been about England …
SPIEGEL: The criticism wasn’t just coming from the police and Muslims, but increasingly from colleagues and intellectuals. Perhaps your sharpest critic, John le Carré, accused you of having attacked a known enemy, one that reacted as was to be expected, to which you cried “foul.”
Rushdie: I think he would probably regret having said these things, because it is a way of saying all intellectuals who have ever stood up against tyrants deserved what they get. García Lorca knew how brutal Franco was. Osip Mandelstam knew what to expect from Stalin. Should they just have kept their mouth shut? Raising their voices against known enemies is precisely what writers have done honorably throughout the history of literature. For le Carré to say that’s their own stupid fault is naïve at best. It dishonored the history of literature.
Exactly. We know what to expect, and we think it’s bad. Because we think it’s bad we think we should say it’s bad. We realize that when we say it’s bad, there will be reactions, bad reactions. That’s the very thing we think is bad! So it’s hardly a moral argument to say we shouldn’t say it’s bad because we know what to expect. The Mafia does bad things. Everybody knows that. That doesn’t make it morally wrong to resist them, but the contrary.
SPIEGEL: But perhaps attacking a religion isn’t the same thing as criticizing a dictatorship.
Religion is worse! Dictators come and go, but religion persists.