Rushdie praises fatwa opposition

Sir Salman Rushdie has paid tribute to all those who stood up and opposed the fatwa imposed on him 20 years ago for writing his novel, The Satanic Verses, BBC reported.

Rushdie, one of they keynote speakers at this year's Hay Festival, in Powys, told of the booksellers who "redoubled" their efforts to sell the banned work.

Iran's late Ayatollah Khomeini imposed the fatwa over its reference to the prophet Mohammad.

Rushdie said the "many acts of courage" had stayed "more than the ugliness".

The author, who was knighted in June last year, told the audience in a very wet festival about his years in hiding after the fatwa, calling for his execution, was issued in 1989.

Asked how the fatwa had changed him personally, the Booker-winning writer said he believed he would have changed in any case during the 20 years since the controversy occurred.

But he added: "I had to understand not just what I was fighting against, but also what I was fighting for."

Rushdie was at the festival to talk about his latest novel The Enchantress of Florence.

He said that while he was "demonised" by a threat from a foreign country, there were many "small-scale heroes' who kept on selling his work, The Satanic Verses.

"It was extraordinary to be at the centre of such a collective act," said Rushdie.

He also explained to the audience that while the fatwa had put him in demand as a commentator on political events - he had a column in the New York Times - that was not the direction he wanted his career to go.

He said the reason he had become a writer was "not to be a pundit or a talking head" and he had now decided to concentrate on the business of writing stories which had inspired him in the first place.

Meanwhile, at an event to discuss the Library of Wales Sports Anthology, First Minister Rhodri Morgan said supporting the Welsh rugby and football teams had laid important historical foundations for the Welsh assembly.

Disagreeing with Lloyd George's contention that the "morbid nationalism of football" had been an obstacle to Home Rule for Wales, Mr Morgan countered: "The red jerseys of rugby and football were the essential precursor of devolution in 1999."

Rugby writer and TV commentator Eddie Butler said that boxing, cricket, rugby and golf still gave opportunities for sports writers to examine the "dark underbelly" of the sport.

He said the "great plastic god of TV" was helping to "button up" players, who were being "trained to say nothing - it's up to sports writers to explain what's happening."

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