Michael Moynihan on Salman Rushdie’s Memoir of Life in Hiding

by Reihan Salam

I found the conclusion of Michael Moynihan’s Wall Street Journal review of Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton sobering:

Mr. Rushdie is optimistic about the Arab Spring and those young Muslims who took to the streets because they “wanted jobs and liberty, not religion.” But the recent violent attacks on American embassies suggest that the revolution in the Middle East might be more religious than libertarian, and the lightning-quick condemnation last week by the American embassy in Cairo of the “abuse” of free speech by a private citizen who produced an anti-Islam YouTube video indicates that the enemies of liberal democracy have learned well from the Rushdie affair. Defenders of Enlightenment values, regardless of what they think of Mr. Rushdie the novelist, must acknowledge the fact that, when threatened, Salman Rushdie—Joseph Anton—reacted with great bravery and even heroism.

I recall having very much enjoyed Imaginary Homelands, a collection of Rushdie’s essays from 1981 to 1991, a period during which Rushdie was considered a leading literary leftist. That changed after the fatwa, as a number of his erstwhile allies sought to distance themselves from him.