Author Salman Rushdie, known to most for having been put under a fatwa by the late Ayatollah Khomeini that called for his death, blasted intelligent design proponents this week at Kansas University, telling his standing-room-only audience “superstition needs to be pushed back in the cupboard where it belongs.”

Rushdie, speaking at the Lied Center at an event sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities, warned against religious extremism and the emergence of religion in matters of public policy, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

“I would really love never to mention that word again: religion,” Rushdie said. “But now it seems to be coming right at us all. I don’t just mean radical Islam, by the way. I believe we have some problems right here.”

The Kansas Board of Education is expected to vote later this year on new science standards that, if approved, will expose students to greater criticism of Darwinism. The move, pushed by a conservative majority on the state board, has drawn criticism from groups that endorse evolution and who describe intelligent design as a mere variant of creationism.

“I never had any doubts about evolution theory,” he said. “I gather there are parts of Kansas where the big bang did not take place.”

Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” earned him a death sentence in 1989 from Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini for his depiction of Islam. That fatwa was lifted in 1998. For nine years, Rushdie went into hiding, often protected by bodyguards. At one point, a reward of $2 million was offered for his capture.

Rushdie told the Kansas audience he had fought against religion for most of his life, noting that when he was young, he and others thought they had won the battle and, so, quit paying attention.

We were “so busy having fun that all the uncool people took over the world,” he said.

“It’s a pretty bad time for us who don’t believe that superstition should rule the world,” he said.

He recommended “ridicule, argument and battle” to advance the fight against religion and push superstition back in the cupboard where it belongs.

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