Author Salman Rushdie speaks at UC San Diego

Novel 'The Satanic Verses' generated controversy

SAN DIEGO - As protests continue to rage in the Muslim world over an anti-Islamic film made by a Southern California man, the man who roiled the Muslim world a quarter century ago addressed a crowd at UC San Diego on Saturday evening. 

Author Salman Rushdie received a warm welcome at UCSD while promoting a new book based on his life in exile.

For nearly 15 years, the British citizen lived under police protection after the spiritual leader of Iran called on Muslims around the world to kill Rushdie.

Outrage in the Muslim world and threats against Rushdie started almost immediately after the release of his 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses." Rushdie's depiction of the prophet Muhammad offended many Muslims.

"There was a description of the book that had begun to circulate – far more widely than my ability to overcome it – which in my view, was a false description," said Rushdie. "I mean, not just a variant reading but an actual lie."

The fury over "The Satanic Verses" mirrors the recent anger over a film made by an American citizen.

Kelly Machleit was among those who waited in line to get Rushdie's autograph and hear what he had to say.

"I thought he might be talking a little more about that, but I think it's really relevant to what's going on right now," she said.

On Saturday, a member of the Pakistani government called for the filmmaker's death. The Pakistani minister said he would pay a bounty of $100,000. He also called on al-Qaida to help kill the filmmaker.

Rushdie never linked his experience with the current controversy but did speak about having to explain his book and the intention behind it.

"From then to now, really, that I actually had to do this business… is just salvage my book from under the pile of s*** that had been thrown on top of it," he said.

Although it has been years since the controversy over Rushdie's book, signs of it still linger. When he spoke at UCSD, he was accompanied by several security people and there was a heavy police presence.

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