Magazine article Foreign Policy

Salman Rushdie

Magazine article Foreign Policy

Salman Rushdie

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

NEARLY 2.5 YEARS after The Satanic Verses, the controversial novel that inspired an Iranian fatwa against his life and forced his family into a decade of hiding, Salman Rushdie seems at ease, even giddy. After all, he's keeping busy: A movie version of his classic Midnight's Children and a new memoir about his time in hiding are due out shortly--and he's even tweeting. But the British-Indian novelist sees dark tidings in the Arab Spring and ruefully recalls better times in the Iran of his youth.

I was very optimistic about Egypt last year because the movement seemed to be genuinely secular, democratic, and not influenced by religious extremism. It seemed to suggest a way for Egypt and states like it to become genuinely modern nations. I think since then, obviously, that's gone very wrong. One has to say that the Arab Spring is over. The young people who made the uprising were too politically innocent, perhaps. It's genuinely disappointing that a revolution that had nothing to do with religion and was hostile to the autocratic military command of the state has been followed by a situation in which you still have an autocratic military command and a very religious element now as well. In a way, it's the opposite of what people were fighting for.

There was one particular and very intimate relationship between myself and Iran--which was that they were trying to kill me. I did once visit Iran when I was 21 years old, during the time of the shah. It was wonderful. I had just graduated from university, and such was the world at that time, 1968, that I was able to drive with a friend from London to South Asia across the world. I mean, try driving across Iran and Afghanistan now! I remember it being a very cosmopolitan, very cultured society. And it always seemed to me that the arrival of Islamic radicalism in that country, of all countries, was particularly tragic because it was so sophisticated a culture--which is not to defend the shah's regime, which was appalling. …

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