LONDON – Salman Rushdie has done it again.
The writer, who was put under a death sentence for insulting Prophet Muhammad in The Satanic Verses, has raised the stakes with an essay praising pornography, according to a report in The Sunday Times.
In the essay, to be published this autumn alongside images of American porn stars in a book called XXX:30 Porn Star, Rushdie argues that a free and civilised society should be judged by its willingness to accept pornography.
Iranian hardliners recently renewed a death sentence on him after the original fatwa was lifted.
In an extract from his essay ‘The East Is Blue’, Rushdie implies that Muslims are avid consumers of pornography because of the segregation of the sexes.
According to the Times, he writes: ‘Pornography exists everywhere, of course, but when it comes into societies in which it’s difficult for young men and women to get together and do what young men and women often like doing, it satisfies a more general need.
‘While doing so, it sometimes becomes a kind of standard-bearer for freedom, even civilisation.’
According to Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, the book’s photographer, he supports his argument with statistics about the volume of porn traffic on the Internet in Pakistan.
The libertarian arguments in Rushdie’s essay represent a provocative twist on a debate he began three years ago to define what aspects of Western society should be defended against the ideology of Muslim terrorism, the Times said.
In the aftermath of the 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, he insisted that the ‘fundamentalist seeks to bring down a great deal more than buildings’.
He asked: ‘What will we risk our lives to defend? Can we unanimously concur that…even short skirts and dancing are worth dying for?’
He claimed that fundamentalists were against ‘pluralism, secularism …sex’.
The Times said that to his critics, Rushdie’s eagerness to write about sex detracts from his literary strengths.
Muslim academic Ziauddin Sardar observed that a character in The Satanic Verses seemed sex-crazed.
Rushdie’s recent novel Fury also had mixed reviews amid suggestions that it drew on his love life with his current wife, Ms Padma Lakshmi, who is 26 years his junior.
It was nominated for the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award, but failed to win.
The Times said that Rushdie is joined by some of the most prominent figures in American literature, music and cinema in his campaign to welcome pornography into the mainstream.
Other contributors to XXX:30 Porn Star include writer Gore Vidal, actor John Malkovich and singer Lou Reed.