After the Times Literary Supplement criticized Salman Rushdie's choice of words, the Booker Prize winner author strikes back.
It all began when Rushdie responded to the attacks on French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo by Muslim extremists. Rushdie was a natural person to speak up for free speech; the author spent years in hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the killing of the author of "The Satanic Verses."
After the attacks in France on Charlie Hebdo, Rushdie posted a short response at English PEN, the organization that advocates internationally for free speech rights.
"Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today," Rushdie wrote. "I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. 'Respect for religion' has become a code phrase meaning 'fear of religion.' Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect."
A blog at the esteemed Times Literary Supplement took issue with Rushdie's use of the word "medieval," accusing the author of "intellectual complacency."
"'We,' whoever that is, all know what the Middle Ages were like, don't 'we'? They were nasty, brutish, and went on for ages. Anything after the Romans and before the Renaissance is the bad old Middle, right? You could call it 'medieval'; everything smelled bad, minds and bodies were in a permanent state of plague, and the only known form of entertainment was killing, in all its most disgusting forms...," wrote staffer Michael Caines. "If you believe all this, and don't believe in the existence of cathedrals and Chaucer, congratulations – to borrow the words of Joseph Brodsky, 'you're in The Empire, friend' – the empire of intellectual complacency."
It was perhaps an ill-timed argument, as Rushdie is certainly not the only person to commonly use "medieval" to describe ideas that are backward and uninformed. And his cause -- to condemn the killing of cartoonists in the name of religion -- is pretty much unimpeachable.
Rushdie replied on Twitter, referencing a line from "Pulp Fiction." "Hey, @TheTLS, you keep this pedantic [stuff] up and I'm a get medieval on yo' ass," he tweeted.