The Satanic Verses author Sir Salman Rushdie said it would be “difficult” to publish the book now because of the “climate of fear” that exists.

The writer, whose latest book Joseph Anton: A Memoir recounts his life in hiding after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his death, said many of the opponents of free expression used a “medieval vocabulary”.

Rushdie spent years living under the threat of death following the publication of the novel, which was inspired in part by the life of Mohammed, and sparked demonstrations and protests from Muslims.

He told the BBC “a book which was critical of Islam would be difficult to be published now”, and pointed to Channel 4’s recent decision to cancel a private screening of a documentary on Islamic history because of security concerns.

But he said some of the people who originally protested against his book when it was published in 1988 had since admitted they were wrong.

Rushdie said: “Some of them seemed to accept the free speech argument and understood if they had the right to say what they felt, it was wrong to prevent people who felt differently from having their say.

”If that’s right, then maybe we can emerge from a climate of fear.”

His new memoir takes its title from the name he used while in hiding - which was a combination of the first names of two of his favourite writers, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov.