Author Salman Rushdie has commented on the destruction of cultural artifacts, such as the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, which was destroyed recently by Islamic State saying "culture has no armies."

"I think people of a tyrannical bend fear art, because art is not controllable. Art is the expression of human genius and liberty. And if the game you’re in is to control liberty, then you dislike manifestations of it," he told News Hour.

Rushdie faced death threats over the content of his 1989 novel The Satanic Verses, which virulent critics declared to be blasphemous against the prophet Muhammad. Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran called for the author’s death, and the writer was obliged to hide away for almost ten years until the so-called fatwa was removed. During that period, the writer had no known address, bodyguards were constantly at his side and he was obliged to travel in armoured cars. For the past 15 years he has lived in New York. 

The author still believes that free expression is hugely important. "One of the things I think we must remember as free societies is that one of the parts, essential parts, of freedom is to say things that other people don’t like," he said. "I think that idea of accepting… what you find objectionable is absolutely essential to an open society."

Salman Rushdie’s new novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights has just been published in English around the world. "What the book is about is… the engagement between the world of imagination and dream, the irrational world, you know, which is not subject to logic," he explained.

He told The Guardian that it may well be his funniest book, "The source material is a great storehouse of tales I grew up with, that made me fall in love with reading. I thought this is the literary baggage I've carried around all my life and now I'm putting my bags down. Let’s see what happens when I unpack them and those stories escape into this place."