Salman Rushdie has asked Twitter to remove a post with an Islamophobic quote that he claims has been falsely attributed to him, after it circulated alongside a photo of the author’s face this week.
The quote says that Muslims’ “only goal is to destroy the whole nation by terrorism, bomb blasts, population explosion, riots and jihad in the name of Islam”. It’s not the first time this quote has appeared online: it has been attributed to Rushdie without any source by anti-Islam and far-right groups for years, and in 2015 it was traced by a Twitter user to a message posted online. At the time, Rushdie thanked the user for finding the source of “this fake quote that people can’t seem to stop quoting to justify their own bigotry”.
Now the author – whose 1988 novel The Satanic Verses prompted Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa ordering Muslims to execute him – is asking Twitter to step in and delete a new tweet attributing this Islamophobic quote to him. On Thursday, Rushdie wrote on Twitter that the 4 August post was a “fake tweet”, and that he had “never said anything of this sort”. That tweet remains on the social media platform, although Rushdie has made a direct appeal to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to have it removed.
Rushdie has previously said, “We are living in the darkest time I have ever known”, and argued that the taboo surrounding “supposed ‘Islamophobia’” must be brought to an end. “Why can’t we debate Islam?” he said in 2015, following controversy about a freedom of expression award to the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after 12 people were killed at its Paris offices by Islamist gunmen. “It is possible to respect individuals, to protect them from intolerance, while being sceptical about their ideas, even criticising them ferociously.”
In July, Rushdie was among the signatories to a controversial open letter warning that the spread of “censoriousness” was leading to “an intolerance of opposing views” and “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism”. The letter, published in Harper’s Magazine, was signed by authors including JK Rowling and Margaret Atwood. It attacked what it called “a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity”.