Salman Rushdie - For Free Speech
I've kept long enough on the back burner this Patt Morrison interview, "Salman Rushdie, freedom writer," which I read in the LA Times about one month ago (October 3, 2012) but only now have found opportunity to excerpt:
In the new book you write that the protagonist -- you -- chooses ethics and the universality of freedom over fundamentalist religion and moral relativism. Is this the defining conflict of the epoch?I find fascinating the fact -- and it is a fact -- that a supposedly universal religion should mire itself in moral relativism, but Islam is doing that by its refusal to subject itself to the universalizing force of reason.
I think so. I really wanted to sum it up not just in a narrow political way but in terms of what it is about literature and the things that I love that I wanted to defend against the things that were attacking them.
You called the "Innocence of Muslims" video the worst thing on YouTube. It certainly isn't art, but it is "speech." Should we draw a line on the protections we extend to speech?Bully for Rushdie. He comes out clearly and forcefully for free speech.
I don't think so. The correct response to a piece of nonsense on YouTube is to say it's a piece of nonsense on YouTube. To use that to try to blow up the world just seems, to put it mildly, disproportionate. It's become clear that the video has become a pretext for the unleashing of a more generalized anti-American rage. And the video has been used by political and religious leaders across the Muslim world just to point an angry mob in the direction of America.
Even as the video protests unfolded, "The Book of Mormon," which makes light of religion, opened in Hollywood. Nobody burned down the Pantages over it.Excellent point -- precisely to the point! Islam is less mature than Mormonism. Of course, Mormonism is an American religion. Anyway, Rushdie concludes with full-throated appreciation of America's First Amendment:
It's a brilliantly clever show, and I know a lot of Mormons have seen it and thought it was funny. This is how to be grown-up. We're sometimes told that, on [history's] calendar, Islam is only in the middle ages, so it will mature as the centuries pass. But Mormonism seems to have got there a lot faster.
I feel the American principle, the 1st Amendment, is the best: Better to have the bad ideas out in the sunlight where they can be attacked than under the carpet where they will be in some way glamorized by being forbidden. Vampires shrivel in the sunlight.My view precisely, almost exactly as I used to defend free speech in Germany when speaking with German friends over Germany's legal restrictions on freedom of expression.