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The unfortunate “Rushdie Affair”

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14th February 1989

“We are from Allah and to Allah, we shall return. I am informing all brave Muslims of the world that the author of The Satanic Verses, a text written, edited, and published against Islam, the Prophet of Islam, and the Qur’an, along with all the editors and publishers aware of its contents, are condemned to death. I call on all valiant Muslims wherever they may be in the world to kill them without delay so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth. And whoever is killed in this cause will be a martyr, Allah Willing. Meanwhile, if someone has access to the author of the book but is incapable of carrying out the execution, he should inform the people so that [Rushdie] is punished for his actions. Rouhollah al-Mousavi al-Khomeini.”- Iranian radio roared on 14th February 1989.

On Iranian radio, Ayatollah Khomeini, the religious and political leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa asking Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers for the unthinkable sin of producing this work, which he saw as unforgivably evil and blasphemous.

12th August 2022

On 12th August 2022, Friday morning, Salman Rushdie was going to give a talk to an audience of hundreds on “Artistic Freedom” at western New York’s Chautauqua Institution. Salman Rushdie spent the majority of his life in hiding after the death threats he had received. Recently he ached for his own Freedom and realized – “Oh, I have to live my life,” and started being social, appearing in public in New York City without security. Over 33 years and Rushdie assumed that humans have now evolved and Freedom is a fundamental right of everyone but he was wrong!

Ohh! I forgot to mention Rushdie’s unforgivable sin for which he has paid off his Freedom-whole his life and finally yesterday, he was repeatedly stabbed by 24 years old Hadi Matar (sympathetic to “Shia extremism” and the causes of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC)), who rushed to the stage and attacked him!


14th February 1989 and 12th August 2022- total 33 years, 5 months, 29 days.

Who, When and What changed the fate of Salman Rushdie?

Who is Salman Rushdie and Why did he receive Death Threats, Fatwah, and Attacks?

  • Salman Rushdie is an Indian-born British-American novelist. He is the author of thirteen novels. He has written 13 highly acclaimed novels and won Booker Prize for his novel Midnight’s Children (1981). He has received the Freedom of the City in Mexico City, Strasbourg, and El Paso, and the Edgerton Prize of the American Civil Liberties Union. He holds the rank of Commander in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres – France’s highest artistic honor. His books have been translated into over forty languages.

I can write on and on about his literary achievements, glories, and honors- but I know you can easily Google and find it out!

We are here discussing what this Literary Genius did that has put him on a ventilator today with the fear that he may lose one of his eyes!

What exactly did he do to deserve this cruel fate?

  • He wrote a book. Out of his 13 books, The “Satanic Verses”, also called Rushdie Affair is the most controversial Book. The Book was published in 1988 in the United Kingdom and is said to be inspired by the life of Muhammad. (Of course, I am not going to cite objectionable content here as I don’t want my freedom/life for sake! But you can find it out with a single click on Google!). “Satanic Verses” received heated reactions from Muslims across the globe and Death threats were poured upon Rushdie.

Numerous killings attempted killings, and bombings resulted in response to “Satanic Verses”- just one book! There were attempts to murder Rushdie’s translators and publishers as well. Whoever decided to get associated with this Book got either killed or attacked. The Japanese translator of the book, Hitoshi Igarashi, was murdered in 1991, and Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator, was attacked and stabbed. William Nygaard, the publisher in Norway, was shot thrice but luckily survived.

How, When, and Why did a Book accelerate Deaths, Attacks, Fatwahs. Political Stir?

India was the First Nation to ban Rushdie’s book “Satanic Verses”.

YES! FREE INDIA, Where Freedom of Expression is a fundamental right, This book was banned FIRST!

How? Who imposed the ban? Let’s get to know about it all.

On October 5, 1988, the ban was invoked by the Finance Ministry of India, which prohibited import of the book into the country under the Customs Act of 1962.

It was very evident that Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi banned the import of the book, hoping to win Muslim support ahead of elections.

Some 20 countries including South Africa, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia- went on to outlaw it.

On 6 October 1988, Salman Rushdie was informed by his friend Salman Haider, deputy high commissioner of India in London about the Ban on Satanic Verses.

What was more shocking for Rushdie? – Not the Book being banned but the fact that- “The book had not been examined by any properly authorized body, nor had there been any resemblance of the judicial process”. 

Rushdie was in disbelief-“The ban came, improbably, from the finance ministry, under section 11 of the Customs Act, which prevented the book from being imported.”

In Response to this Ban- a painful blow for Rushdie, “out of that pain” he wrote an open letter to Rajiv Gandhi. “This is no way, Mr Gandhi, for a free society to behave,” he wrote. “What sort of India do you wish to govern? Is it to be an open or a repressive society? Your action in the matter of The Satanic Verses will be an important indicator for many people around the world.” 

In the memoir, which is written in the third person, Rushdie wrote that he was “defending a thing he revered above most things, the art of literature, against a piece of blatant political opportunism”. The letter ended: “You own the present, Mr Prime Minister; but the centuries belong to art.

Indeed The Rajiv Gandhi Government played a wicked role in banning Rushdie’s book in FREE INDIA.

The day after the letter was published, Rushdie’s publisher, Viking, received their first death threat.

And the TL after the Letter shows clearly-how Rajiv Gandhi’s Government’s step to Ban the book created a stir and resulted in after effects globally!

On October 5, 1988– Rajiv Gandhi’s Government Banned the book. In February 1989, Rushdie wrote an open letter to India’s Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi.

In February 1989, the very next day, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini called for Rushdie’s death and issued a fatwa against him.

In 2012, Rushdie was forced to pull out of attending a literary festival in Jaipur over threats of violence. He was also forced to abandon plans to address the gathering by a video link after protesters threatened to march on the venue.

{ Details: He withdrew from attending India’s Jaipur Literature Festival, saying that sources had told him of a death threat.

It was very well known that Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Union Law and Minority Minister Salman Khurshid met to discuss Rushdie’s visit and the demand by conservative Muslim groups. }

In 2013, his planned visit to Kolkata to promote the film of his novel Midnight’s Children was canceled, as the CM denied him entry into the state.

In 2015, Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram said the decision of the Rajiv Gandhi government to ban Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, was wrong.

“I have no hesitation in saying that the ban on Salman Rushdie’s book was wrong,”

Chidambaram was the Minister of State for Home Affairs in the Rajiv Gandhi government from 1986-89. The book was banned in October 1988. Asked why it took him so long to reach this conclusion, Chidambaram said, “If you had asked me 20 years ago, I would have told you the same thing.”

Salman Rushdie was Born in India. He is a Kashmiri Muslim, whose book is still banned in FREE INDIA and he still feels the threat to visit FREE INDIA.

On this 75th Independence Day, I have a question for all of us- Are we really Free?

If yes, I have one more question to ask-

Freedom of Speech, Expression- is fundamental rights as per the Indian constitution and what does one have to pay to get hold of his/her own fundamental rights?


About The Blogger:

Bhumika Shah is the Lead, Branding and Communication at Padhega India.

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2 thoughts on “The unfortunate “Rushdie Affair”

  1. Manish Shrivastava says:

    Very informative.

    1. Thank you for reading 🙂

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