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Video: Salman Rushdie: Friends helped me survive fatwa

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    >>> we're back now at 7:43 with a man who has a unique perspective on the current anti-american violence in the muslim world . 23 years ago salman rushdie watched as protesters raged against his novel "the satanic verses " in the middle east . he was marked to death and forced to hide for nearly a decade. now he writes about his life as a marked man using an alias while living underground in the new member roy "joseph anton." it's a pleasure to have you here.

    >> good to be here.

    >> this is a story that captured headlines 23 years ago.

    >> yes, yes.

    >> deeply personal story for you, and you haven't told it until now. why?

    >> partly because it was so personal, and i wanted to feel emotionally in a better place to tell it, but i always knew that i would tell it. and actually it's that personal story that i think needs to be told, you know. how did a writer and his family and his publishers face off against this extraordinary act of terrorism.

    >> and so many connections to what we're seeing now, but let's try to remind people of the heat that was surrounding you. theit t thei the atiyah khamenei marked you, you were told by death squads that they had, quote, unquote, frustrated credible plots. what kind of fear were you living in?

    >> it was a aim of incredible stress. a lot of people who knew me then and afterwards said ten years afterwar afterwards, i was worried about my publishers, book sellers , translators, a lot to worry about.

    >> i remember my coverage at the time. i'm old enough to refreshes and i remember some story line that kept coming up that during this you were living this life, enjoying the money and enjoying the fame, living a combination of a life of like james bond and david beckham , the international man of mystery and being whisked away by limbo and things. what was the reality?

    >> well, that was for me one of the strangest things that people should attempt to so dramatically distort what was going on. yes, i think sometimes it did look glamourous, if you arrive in a bulletproof jag and police leave out of the door, people think who the hell does he think he is? and for my side of it it felt like jail

    >> you write a lot about your friend and say throughout this entire ordeal not one friend ever said to you i can't be your friend anymore because you're too much of a hot potato .

    >> yeah.

    >> these people risked a lot to protect.

    >> you one of the things i really take away from that experience is the fact that i survived this because of the love of friends who did extraordinary things for me.

    >> so fast forward, 23 years, okay, and we're got a situation in the middle east right now, and you look at protests going on in some of these cities, and do you see a connection?

    >> yes, i mean, one of the reasons why in the book i used this metaphor of the hitchcock movie "the birds" is to real say what happened to me was like the first bird, and now we're in the middle of the storm.

    >> but what is -- i mean, if you remember, the itollia had never seen the movie.

    >> the reaction is a much more larger outrage. we still live in a rage of outrage and people are defined by their outrage and feels that it justifies itself.

    >> but is it legitimate outrage in your opinion or is it manufactured outrage? think were you talking to one of our producers over the weekend. you said it's kind of the outrage machine?

    >> there's an autorage industry, people who look for things to provoke their audiences, and it is, it's to a large extent manufactured. the fact that you can unleash these violent mobs like this is obviously completely unacceptable.

    >> and consider the fact that when you wrote "the satanic verses " 23 years ago it was not the age of social media .

    >> no.

    >> where a message can spread like wildfire.

    >> absolutely. it's much easier to do that now.

    >> when you look at this creator of this film in question, this internet film in, some ways do you have sympathy for that person, or do you feel that that person has done something horribly wrong?

    >> well, i mean, i think he's done something malicious, and that's a very different thing from writing a serious novel, you know. he's clearly set out to provoke, and he's obviously unleashed a much bigger reaction than he hoped for. i mean, one of the problems with defending free speech is you often have to defend people that you find to be outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting.

    >> when you saw that man taken in for questioning over the weekend slightly shrouded to mask his appearance, any level of sympathy there?

    >> not really.

    >> why not?

    >> well, because he did it on purpose. i mean, he set out to create a response, and he got it in spades.

    >> salman rushdie , interesting, interesting perspective and i can't wait to read more of this book. it's called "joseph anton."

    >> thank you.

    >> pleasure to have you here.

TODAY staff and wire
updated 9/17/2012 8:34:02 AM ET 2012-09-17T12:34:02

As an Iranian religious foundation raises the bounty on his head, British author Salman Rushdie called the film that has sparked protest in the Middle East "disgraceful."

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"I think clearly the video was a flashpoint," Rushdie told TODAY's Matt Lauer Monday of the U.S.-made film that mocks the Prophet Muhammad. "From what I can see it was an outrageous, disgraceful little malevolent thing, but by now I think that  the reaction we’re seeing is really the release of a much larger outrage. We sort of live in an age of outrage, and people seem to be defining themselves by their outrage and seem to feel that it justifies itself."

Iran boosts price on author Rushdie's head to $3.3M

Rushdie, an Indian-born British novelist who has nothing to do with the film, was condemned to death in 1989 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's late leader, over his novel "The Satanic Verses," saying its depiction of the Prophet Muhammad was blasphemous.

Video: Salman Rushdie: Friends helped me survive fatwa (on this page)

Khomeini's fatwa — or religious edict — was condemned in the West as incitement to murder and an assault on freedom of speech, but a wealthy Iranian religious organization has offered a large reward to anyone carrying it out and decided to increase the bounty amid the furor over the online film.

Story: Salman Rushdie opens up about his life under a fatwa

"I am adding another $500,000 to the reward for killing Salman Rushdie, and anyone who carries out this sentence will receive the whole amount immediately," said Hassan Sanei, the foundation's head, in a statement carried by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

The reward offered by the state-linked foundation now stands at $3.3 million, ISNA reported.

Rushdie had harsh words for the controversial film.

"I think he’s done something malicious and that’s a very different thing from writing a serious novel," he said. "He’s clearly set out to provoke, and he’s obviously unleashed a much bigger reaction that he hoped for. One of the problems with defending free speech is you often have to defend people that you find to be outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting."

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Rushdie came on TODAY to talk about his new book, "Joseph Anton," which tells the writer's story about living under the threat of murder.

"One of the reasons why in the book I use this metaphor of the Hitchcock movie 'The Birds' is to say that really what happened to me was the first bird, and now we’re in the middle of the storm," Rushdie said.

"Surely if the sentence of the Imam (Khomeini) had been carried out, the later insults in the form of caricatures, articles and the making of movies would not have occurred," said Sanei, who is also the foundation's representative to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Khomeini's successor as Iran's supreme leader.

Rushdie believes the film is part of a larger industry that exists to inflame the public.

"There is an outrage industry,'' he said. "There are people who look for things to provoke their audiences with, and it is to a large extent manufactured. The fact that you can unleash these violent mobs like this is obviously completely unacceptable."

In his new book, Rushdie recalls what it was like to be in the middle of the maelstrom after being marked for death upon the release of "The Satanic Verses.''

"It was a time of incredible stress,'' he said. "A lot of people who knew me then and afterwards said that 10 years later I looked younger than I had at the time, and it’s because of that burden. It wasn’t just about me. I was worried about my family, I was worried about my publishers, my translators, booksellers — there was a lot to worry about.''

At the time of the controversy 23 years ago, there were reports Rushdie was living a James Bond-type life, but he said the reality was much different.

"That was for me one of the strangest things, that people should attempt to so dramatically distort what was going on,'' he said. "I think sometimes it did look glamorous. You arrive in places in a bulletproof Jaguar and a policeman leaps out and opens the door. People think, ‘Who the hell is he, what does he think he is?’ Actually, from my side of it, it felt like jail.''

Rushdie had no sympathy for the filmmaker now embroiled in a violent backlash.

"He did it on purpose," the author told TODAY. "He set out to create a response and he got it in spades."

Scott Stump, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive

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