“The Satanic Verses”: The controversy continues
“The Satanic Verses” written by Salman Rushie is one of the most controversial pieces of literature of the last century. The novel is inspired by the life of Muhammed; it received positive reviews in the UK and was awarded the Whitbread Award in 1988.
At the time of publication Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollan Khomeini declared a fatwa, a legal pronouncement of Islam, against Rushdie claiming that the book was blasphemous and mocked the Islamic faith. Following this, Rushdie was placed under the protection of the British police for ten years, two of his translators were killed and one seriously injured. Some of the bookshops which stocked the novel were also under attack. The book was banned in Muslim countries and India, Rushdie’s birthplace. Rushdie’s freedom of expression was defended and Penguin refused to withdraw the book from publication.
This January, Rushdie was scheduled to appear at the Jaipur Literary Festival in his native India but this decision was met with a hostile response by the vice-chancellor of the Darul Uloom Deoband seminary, Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, who stated:
“Rushdie should not be allowed to visit India. If he visits India, it would be adding salt to the injuries of Muslims. He has hurt our religious sentiments.”
The adversity was so widespread that Rushdie opted to address the festival by video-link. Yesterday however, an announcement was made by the organisers of the festival that even this video-link had to be cancelled, following threats of violence. Salman Rushdie commented on Twitter:
“Threat of violence by muslim groups stifled free speech today. In a true democracy we all get to speak, not just the ones making threats”
The hostility to “The Satanic Verses” comes almost 25 years after its original publication and illustrates the impact that literature can have.
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