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Dec. 11, 1990: Salman Rushdie and the Fatwa

Author speaks about life after controversial publication, "The Satanic Verses."
8:56 | 12/09/11

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Transcript for Dec. 11, 1990: Salman Rushdie and the Fatwa
We have read about Salman Rushdie's trials for almost two years we know about the death sentence imposed by the late Ayatollah Khomeini. What we don't know is what it's been like to live with that threat hanging over -- hit. -- give us that inside along with his views on other issues concerning the Middle -- someone -- joins us now live from London. There is -- Austria I think you'll agree is something faintly of bizarre about your appearance on American television program is it. In part -- is. Britain and you book and you want to publicize that or is it simply that the with the pain of being an isolation is worse than the possible danger of appearing in public. Well I've been wanting since really the beginning of this whole thing to to be playing gradually bits of my life as it seemed appropriate to do -- I mean simply for a long time it didn't seem appropriate that was there was a very high level of of noise and danger and as that subsides that mean after all I'm not a prisoner I do want to seize back the kind of life that I used. That's that that's the primary -- also I think it's very important to go on talking trying to increase understanding of what's happened. Yes I don't do have a new book but I mean that's that's very much that the that the minor consideration this. The scene -- your new book. Cougars to what degree does that relate to your own experiences over the past two years well quite low -- the point is it was very important to me I think the thing that really helped me to get through this -- details. Was a determination that I have to continue as a writer and as a human being. And I wanted to use only want to write to dogs to use his work to try and understand and turned into metaphysical -- what happened to me -- the book. The fight to the book is about. A fable about an ocean of stories which is being destroyed. And about a storyteller who uses his gift and how he and his son try and try and re re trying clintons and succeed in cleansing the stories the sea of stories and restoring the world to its normal state was of course -- -- of what was happening. To me and so as it seems to hit her in the sea of stories is not just. Not just you know. A fairy tale but it does arise out of an attempt by me to understand. What was happening to me what's to what's been the worst part of Alaska for years has -- been the loneliness has it -- the fear. Has it been just not knowing what's going to happen next I think probably the worse -- has been not knowing. How long it was going to go on for I think if somebody had said to me. You know here's a jail sentence is going to be two years -- it's over. I could perhaps have dealt with it's the it's the open -- -- -- that's been difficult there have been times when you've actually been tempted to -- -- that over the just -- -- in public. Yes. But I've overcome those temptations have but now I think -- on the question of the help that his question when it's sensible to do it. And the other thing that that really. The way in which might work helped me it wasn't that was frankly not a great deal of all of -- all of delightful fantasy going on in my life in this period and so have to find it. For myself and an in and in world and I hope that the book reflects that does that -- I wanted to get out of it for myself. As much a straightforward pleasure -- like countless -- remembrance -- -- and -- -- There -- the real world that is going on. Right now on that is in many ways. Quite as fantastic perhaps even as some of your fables can you explain to an American -- for example. Which I think has a difficult time understanding. Why it is the -- a government like the Saudi government which after all now needs American soldiers over there to help protect that country. Why they are so sensitive. About the practice of other religions. We -- the borders of some of so -- -- -- I think it has to do with the special case of Saudi Arabia that Saudi Arabia contains the Muslim holy places the cities of Mecca and Medina. And the idea all of those places being. Protected effectively by foreign troops is something which makes not just the Arabs but people throughout the Arab world. Feel very uneasy I mean this is a very deep deep seated historical irony is that is that that needs to be understood. The moment I think many people in the art world -- will would say that they've accepted the presence of those troops that. Because it's necessary. But I didn't think that's that a permanent presence or even have a really long term presence would be so I think that would create a mounting unease -- say. -- up for example today is the first -- of the Jewish calendar Parker we're coming in choosing the Christian season of Christmas. American soldiers over in Saudi Arabia until they're going to be very very cautious very careful. About how they celebrate those holidays can you explain to us why it would be offensive. To -- Muslims to have major war Christians celebrate one of his holidays is in their country. No I contrarian certainly wouldn't be offensive to most of -- Muslims that governor. I just think that there is it's not specifically those issues is just to those of a broad unease about placing. Hundreds of thousands of western troops so close to the Muslim holy places. And I think that's simply as a way of saying that it's important that we don't think. That what is happening in the gulf can be allowed to drug gone over number of yes. -- -- -- the dot may sound like -- got a whole position which says go in for us that's a pretty what I mean what I mean is it's very important that the peace process should be pleased to be. Carried out to be proceeded -- really as urgently as possible from I think while. There is a chance for peace in the gulf we shouldn't really try too much to talk up the war option that I think there is a -- for peace in the gulf non. I think we should go down that road as -- as -- -- I was talked. Here -- senior US government official. Who was suggesting to me that even if there is no war but it's Saddam were to withdraw from Iraq. That the United States would probably feel the need to keep -- significant military ground force in Saudi Arabia. On almost semi permanent basis almost like moving. The NATO headquarters from Western Europe into the Persian gulf in the Saudi Arabia. You're suggesting that that that that might have consequences I think that would be very politically difficult in the medium -- long time yes I do. I think -- I think but -- would create resentments I think there. And those resentments would lead to walk -- and again. I want to bring it back to where we began you did some things that too many of us. Of western upbringing and non Muslim upbringing. Doesn't didn't seem like such a terrible thing to do in the first person here you have been for two years and of this death sentence yeah. So I'm wondering what kinds of consequences you would foresee. Well only that that you -- that that the relationship of the west of America and Europe to the Arab world. Is historically very problematic because of the because of the history of Clintonism and -- So people frankly don't want large numbers of western troops in that area for a long time so what's important is to find. A stable peace settlement for the whole area. That means that of course means that Iraq Kuwait conflict -- also means other parts of the region. Because of troll there are other occupied territories. In the Middle East which brings us to the -- to the last -- that your you and I are going to have time to discuss which is the Palestinian issue is it your feeling that whatever solution there is in in Kuwait. Is inevitably in one form or another going to have to include a broader solution of those other issues the Palestinian issue. I don't think it necessarily has to be linked -- the moment but I do think that once the Kuwait issue is solved. It's it will be important because many people in not just in the Arab world but throughout the world feel. That they must be a solution. -- to the Palestinian issue goes off to roll if we're going to place such emphasis on United Nations resolutions in the matter of Iraq and Kuwait. We should place equal emphasis on the United Nations resolutions which have to do with the need for Palestinian homeland I think it's very important. That's the world should be seem to be fat about the past in the few seconds we have left -- -- your plan during the immediate future. Well what I'm doing with all my energy is working to continue the process of reconciliation between me and the Muslims you showed the clip. Of the Muslim leaders whose collage and my support I just want to. Build on -- broaden that process and bring this thing to an end. And and and would be the lifting her of that sentence. I don't know about that the point is we need an effective and -- we need something which allies -- To go about my life with a reasonable degree of safety and which allows everybody to to return to normal life and that. Is I believe already happening I think the temperatures quite unlike what -- even six months ago. And whatever I can do to continue to bring it I will mr. rush -- sector were -- thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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