Salman Rushdie: Obama making ‘mistake’ by not saying ‘Islamic terrorism’

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( – Acclaimed British author Salman Rushdie spoke about Islamic terrorism on Wednesday evening from the unique perspective of having once had a death-fatwa issued against him for his writing.

“It’s a mistake that the president [Obama] is making to not use the term Islamic terrorism,” Rushdie said during a question-and-answer session hosted by New York University’s Washington, D.C. Academic Center.

Rushdie was responding to a question from an audience member on whether he had changed his views since he had written a 2001 New York Times opinion piece entitled Yes, This Is About Islam.

“The answer is, no, they haven’t changed,” Rushdie said. “And I think, actually think it’s a mistake that the president is making to not use the term Islamic terrorism.”

“Because, of course, it’s not what a majority of Muslims would think or want,” Rushdie explained. “Of course, it’s a freakish manifestation that has grown up inside Islam. But to say that it’s not about Islam denies what the killers themselves always say.”

“You know, if you have a group of murderers who say, all of them, that they do it in the name of a particular prophet, a particular ideology, to say it’s not about that is just self-evidently evading the truth,” Rushdie added.

Rushdie said that the question is “what has happened inside Islam that allowed this manifestation to grow up inside it.”

He explained it was “quite clear” to him that “the people who suffer the worst from Islamic terrorism are all Muslims.”

“Terrorism in the Muslim world impacts Muslims first and most viciously, and most Muslims are as hostile to it as most non-Muslims are,” Rushdie argued. “All of that is true. But it’s still true that this is something happening inside Islam, not separate from it, inside it, and that needs to be defeated. We must first call it by its name.”

Rushdie said he understood the rationale behind trying to avoid using the term Islamic terrorism “for virtuous reasons of not wishing to stigmatize a large number of innocent people with the deeds of the few.” But he concluded that, “it’s just simply not true to avoid it and one of the things that certainly I think writers are in the business of doing is to call things by their true name.”

“There are reasons why this thing has been going on in the Muslim world and they are Muslim reasons, not all because the West is wrong,” Rushdie emphasized. “We need to look at that. We need to call it by its name.”

Rushdie also referenced the Easter Sunday bombing in Lahore, Pakistan, saying, “There are very courageous writers and journalists, I mean, for example, after this recent Pakistani atrocity. There have been articles in Pakistan in which people have said we have allowed this thing to grow in our midst and it’s our fault, we have to do something about it. We can’t endlessly blame somebody else.”

Rushdie’s fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses,” published in 1988, sparked worldwide controversy over what some considered to be an irreverent depiction of the prophet Muhammad. In 1989, Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for Rushdie’s death. Rushdie endured assassination attempts and lived under police protection for a time.

— Written by Lauretta Brown