Rushdie Interview : Muslim Unrest a Product of the Outrage Machine

(CNN)  22.9.2012  – Manufactured outrage such as that seen in recent protests in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere is “much more prevalent and much more widespread” than it was when The Satanic Verses was published, the book’s author, Salman Rushdie, has told Fareed Zakaria.

Rushdie sparked controversy, and enraged Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989 with his novel The Satanic Verses, a book widely praised by critics but condemned as blasphemous by Khomeini. Back then, a fatwa was issued, and on Monday, Imam Hojatoleslam Hassan Sanei raised his little-known organization’s original bounty on Rushdie by half a million dollars, to $3.3 million, according to Iran’s Mehr news agency. Sanei’s organization, the 15th of Khordad Foundation, made news when it first offered its bounty, but it had in recent years largely faded from public view.

“The death sentence issued against Salman (Rushdie) was meant to dry the roots of anti-Islamic plots, and now by carrying out that sentence the sequence of these anti-Islamic plots could be uprooted and these days are the best time to do that,” Mehr quoted the imam as saying. Rushdie’s new book, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, is an account of the firestorm surrounding The Satanic Verses. But Rushdie suggests that as with the protests over The Satanic Verses, the recent unrest surrounding a controversial video that was posted on YouTube has been managed. “At the time of the attack on The Satanic Verses, what we saw was not so much a spontaneous outpouring of rage as a very carefully manufactured outpouring,” Rushdie told Zakaria. “There was no doubt that it was highly controlled. You know, there were missives sent out from mosques to all sorts of people and they were all identical to make sure everybody was singing from the same song sheet…making the same attacks on the book in the same words.”

“Looking back at it, you can see that that was one of the early moments at which this project of manufacturing outrage began,” he said. “And that’s, of course, become much more prevalent and much more widespread.””And I think certainly, if we look at what’s happening now, this is very much a product of the outrage machine,” Rushdie said. “Yes, there’s this stupid film…and the correct response to a stupid film on YouTube is to say it’s a stupid film on YouTube, and you get on with the rest of your life.”So to take that and to deliberately use it to inflame your troops, you know, is a political act,” Rushdie added. “That’s not about religion, that’s about power.”