Rushdie: Twitter, Facebook would have raised fatwa danger

The writer, in Berlin to publicise his new account of the near decade he spent in hiding, said the campaign against his 1988 book The Satanic Verses had been "very efficient and very international" with just phones and fax machines.

"There was essentially no email, no text messages, no Facebook, no Twitter, no web, and that of course slowed down the attack," he told a news conference.

"When everybody can know everything instantly, it would have been possible to mobilise people against the book with much greater speed and would have been more dangerous now," he added.

Rushdie also hit out at what he called a "culture of offendedness" saying it was absurd and threatened free expression to advocate the banning of works because people took offence.

"This idea that somehow we can ask to live in a world where nothing offends us is an absurdity," the 65-year-old Indian-born writer said.

His more than 600-page memoir Joseph Anton, named after his alias while in hiding and written in the third person, was published last month just as deadly protests over a US-made film rocked the Muslim world.

"We live in this age in which there is this culture of offendedness. All sorts of people, not just Islamic radicals, use this argument as a way of attacking other forms of speech," he said.

"It simply has to be resisted a great deal because otherwise you lose something very precious, which is the right to free expression which was not easily won," he added.

His candid account comes 23 years after Rushdie became the target of a Iranian fatwa, or religious edict, calling for his murder for allegedly blaspheming Islam and the Prophet Mohammed in his book The Satanic Verses.

He told India's NDTV last month that the film mocking Islam that enraged some in the Muslim world "looks like the worst little clip ever made" but there could be no justification for responding with "mayhem and murder".

Rushdie, who has written 11 novels as well as short stories and non-fiction, said he did not believe the experience of living under the fatwa had had a profound impact on his way of writing.

"I told myself very consciously … 'don't fall into the trap of fear and don't fall into the trap of revenge and just try and go on being the writer that you are'," he said. – AFP

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