Author Salman Rushdie, in an interview with CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose, has said that the idea of the holy war seems to be growing popular amongst the youth in economically disadvantaged economies as they are largely unemployed with no means of a good life and jihad gives them a sense of direction. Rushdie's comments come at a time when anti-US protests have rocked the Middle East, and even some parts in south India, over a movie that is purported to be anti-Islam.
In the special interview held ahead of the release of his memoirs, Rushdie also questioned the growing intolerance within India towards freedom of expression and rubbished reports that his film 'Midnight's Children' has not found an Indian distributor.
Below is the edited transcript of the excerpt from the interview.
Sagarika Ghose: There can't be two theories of Islam, there's one true Islam of faith & love and there's another Islam of the bloody theocracies. Do you believe that's wrong - there are no two Islams, there's just one Islam and that Islam is in crisis.
Salman Rushdie: I think that something has gone seriously wrong and I'm just talking about in my lifetime. Tehran was a great cosmopolitan capital, intellectual, artistic, cosmopolitan capital. Beirut, so much so that people used to call it Paris of East. Pakistan used to be a very different place than the Pakistan that now exists. It was never a place which rammed religion down your throat probably. Every time Pakistanis were given a chance to vote, they would vote against the religious parties and for the secular parties. And what has now developed is a harsher Islam which partly because of the spread of Wahabi ideas, you know with the help of colossal amount of Saudi oil money, partly because of the rise of the Ayotalollahs & Shia Islam. Different reasons in different places. They have spread this much harsher, less-tolerant Islam. Many of these countries are economically very disadvantaged and you know the prospects for young people to make good lives for themselves and marrying, raising a family. These things are very improbable and the jihad seems to give them a direction, a purpose, a sense of self-importance and that's very alluring
Sagarika Ghose: As you know the US Ambassador to Libya has been killed because of that documentary on the Prophet...
Salman Rushdie: There seems to be some doubt as to why the attack took place. Today there is a story that it could be related to 9/11. A planned and professional attack rather than a response to this film. I mean obviously this film is a piece of garbage, but a piece of garbage can not justify killing
Sagarika Ghose: Do you worry that India is no longer that haven of creative thinking?
Salman Rushdie: Yes, I do. I think all you have to do is to look at the attacks that have taken place recently. The attack on Ramanujan's essay about the 300 Ramayanas, the fact that it was removed from Delhi University syllabus, the attack on Rohinton Mistry's novel, which was immediately removed from the Bombay University syllabus, this attack on the cartoonist for his perfectly OK cartoons. India has such a great tradition of political cartooning, you know, we didn't just discover this art. We have been very good as the matter of fact. And suddenly everyone is getting just too thin-skinned. There's no such thing like disrespectful political cartooning.
Sagarika Ghose: Does Hindu intolerance bothers you as much as Islamic intolerance because Hindutva intolerance also, is behind many of these attacks?
Salman Rushdie: Well, in India, it's actually more dangerous because there are more Hindus so it's that majoritarian intolerance and it's always the most worrying. For instance the case of Husain, him being attacked for painting Saraswati unclothed. Well, I haven't seen the Saraswati pictures clothed... who paints them, where are they.... where are the statues of Saraswati wearing a dress, the way the Hindus deities have always been depicted is substantially unclothed. They are always very ornamented...always wearing jewels but the amount of clothing has never been an issue. So, obviously, it wasn't that. It was that a Muslim artiste painting a Hindu goddess in that way, so, in fact, it was a sectarian attack.
Sagarika Ghose: Do you continue to believe that free speech is absolute and within it includes the right to offend religion?
Salman Rushdie: Yes, I'm tired of religion demanding special privileges, I mean, just get over it. There's no other idea in the world that demands protection, you know, if ideas are strong, they can stand criticism.
You can watch the full interview at 10pm tonight.