Salman Rushdie: Khomeini fatwa "the albatross around my neck"

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Salman Rushdie: Fatwa "The Albatross Around My Neck"

NEW YORK — Nearly 20 years after being driven underground by a religious decree, he is now Sir Salman Rushdie, properly famous and free, yet still burdened by his status as a symbol of persecution.

"This is the albatross around my neck," the novelist said Sunday night during a conversation with author-activist Irshad Manji at the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

The 61-year-old Rushdie said he would rather be known as an artist than as a social critic, and worried that the attacks against his religious satire, "The Satanic Verses," had obscured "the real person that I am and the actual value of the books."

But the author did seem to enjoy himself as he took on Islamic fundamentalists, President George W. Bush and other objects of his liberal disdain. He was mostly relaxed and jovial despite his reluctance to revisit the death sentence by Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

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