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Friday, September 25, 1998 Published at 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK


Rushdie delighted to be 'free'

Salman Rushdie: 'Now I can stop appearing on news interviews'

The author of the Satanic Verse, Salman Rushdie, has said he is delighted to be free.

He told BBC News 24: "I already feel the shreds of the fatwa flying away as if they were dust."

He is celebrating the prospect of returning to a relatively normal life following the Iranian Government's announcement that it will not support any attempt to kill him.

Mr Rushdie praised the work of the British Government and said he had come to learn that freedom of speech is worth fighting for.

The author said he had a message for British muslims, many of whom, he was sure would be relieved the fatwa no longer has Iranian Government backing.

"I'm extremely happy and relieved that almost 10 years of trial has come to an end.

"I am very grateful to the British Government which seems to have negotiated very toughly and at great length - I must say I did not know it was going on.

"They have achieved a great result."

Standing by Satanic Verses

He said his views about The Satanic Verses, the book which caused such outrage in the Muslim community, have not changed.

But the experience has taught him a lot about free speech:

"The Satanic verses is an important part of my work as a writer. I can't imagine the body of my work without any of my books in it.

"I've had an extraordinary education in the importance in fighting for the freedom of imagination, the freedom of the arts and the generalised issue of freedom of speech."

Mr Rushdie added: "The fatwa and the whole issue will now very rapidly fade into the past".

Message for British muslims

Speaking shortly before giving a press conference, the author said he had a message for British Muslims:

"I have always believed that there has never really been any kind of threat towards me from members of the British Muslim community.

"When talking to journalists I have tried to make it very clear that they must not stereotype and criminalise the British Muslim community.

"I would expect that most British Muslims will be delighted by the news, not necessarily because they're fond of me but because they'll want to get this off their back - it's been a stick with which they've been beaten and I'm delighted its no longer there."

"I would think almost everybody in the British Muslim community will be saying 'thank goodness its over - now lets all get on with our lives'".

Getting on with his life

The writer said he hoped he could now get on with his life: "I hope this will lead at high speed to the resumption of something that could be called the ordinary life of a writer.

"I hope I will cease to be a supplicant at the door of politicians and cease to be on the television news.

"Let us hope the so-called Rushdie affair is over."

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25 Sep 98 | UK
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