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Author Salman Rushdie and Ambassador Andrew Young Discuss Politics and Religion During Crown Forum Conversation

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.



(March 24, 2011) -- Young people protesting old regimes in Egypt and Tunisia is a good sign for citizens of those north African countries, author and Emory University distinguished-writer-in-residence Sir Salman Rushdie told a Morehouse audience.

“This is a moment of great optimism because it’s people taking faith in their own paths,” he said. “It shows…that [they] don’t have to be jihadists and that they can actually change their lives this way.”

Rushdie’s views were part of a wide-ranging talk with former Atlanta mayor
Andrew Young during a Crown Forum conversation held in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel.

“Students got an opportunity to listen to two people, who come from different disciplines and different sides of the world, talk about the past and think about the future,” Young said. “It should help students in their thinking. The future is here and they have to get up and wake up or they will get trampled over."

Sponsored by Morehouse, Emory University and The Andrew Young Foundation, the discussion allowed the two to speak on a range of topics related to democracy and globalization, such as U.S. relations with India, poverty and religion.

“The idea that religion would return to become a central theme of global politics was unthinkable [in the 1960s]. You couldn’t imagine it,” Rushdie said.

Young added: “We have moved from a place where nobody talked about
religion to a place where President Barack Obama has to profess his religion or they’d think that he was a Muslim.”

Before the discussion, Rushdie told a group of Morehouse students that the situation in Libya “is a mess.”

“The people who rose up against [Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi] were not able to resist the enormous military strength that he released against them,” he said. “And they asked the West for help…So there’s a sense where you can see this is as a humanitarian mission [by the United States], but of course, these things have a way of getting messy.

“So the question is what’s the [United States’] goal?” Rushdie asked. “How [does the United States] get out of it? Clearly the hope is that the revolutionaries, when they’re relieved of the problem of air attack and tank attack, might be able to regroup and regain territory it lost. The worry is that it becomes a messy, drawn out thing, which nobody wants.”

Rushdie – who many know as the writer who was issued a fatwa, or death
sentence, after angering many Muslims with his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” – also talked about his love for pop culture. He’s had cameo appearances in several films, including “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and “Then She Found Me,” and in a music video for actress Scarlett Johansson’s music album.

“I wanted to be an actor,” said Rushdie, who is also penning a dramatic series for cable network, Showtime. “It was my other plan. It didn’t work out so well.”

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