Salman Rushdie, the arrogantly renegade writer has caused a stir again. After his fictional but morbidly provocative work based on the Islam prophet Muhammad S.A.W., “The Satanic Verses”, published in 1988, which was regarded as blasphemous and even Iranian spiritual leader Ayahtollah Khomeini issued the fatwa for a death decree, he is back in the spot light.
Recently, Rushdie has been awarded the Knight of the British Empire (KBE) in the Queen’s recent honours list, which carry the title “Sir”, in recognition of his work. However, it created so much public outcry, not only from the five million British Muslims but also the Muslims all over the globe.
The Times of London, www.timesonline.co.uk, has the story:
June 19, 2007
Muslim world inflamed by Rushdie knighthood
Sir Salman Rushdie celebrates his 60th birthday today in familiar circumstances: he is once again the subject of death threats across the Islamic world.
Eighteen years after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill him, a government minister in Pakistan said yesterday that Rushdie’s recent knighthood justified suicide bombing.
The question of blasphemy in The Satanic Verses, Rushdie’s 1988 tale of a prophet misled by the devil, remains a deeply sensitive issue in much of the Muslim world and the author’s inclusion in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last week has inflamed anti-British sentiment.
Gerald Butt, editor of the authoritative Middle East Economic Survey, told The Times: “It will be interpreted as an action calculated to goad Muslims at a time when the atmosphere is already very tense and Britain’s standing in the region is very low because of its involvement in Iraq and its lack of action in tackling the Palestine issue.”
For nine years Salman Rushdie lived as a virtual prisoner, changing addresses constantly, and protected around the clock by British security at an estimated cost of £10 million
Hardliners in Iran revived calls for his murder yesterday. Mehdi Kuchakzadeh, a Tehran MP, declared: “Rushdie died the moment the late Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] issued the fatwa.”
The Organisation to Commemorate Martyrs of the Muslim World, a fringe hardline group, offered a reward of $150,000 (£75,000) to any successful assassin.
Forouz Rajaefar, the group’s secretary general, said: “The British and the supporters of the anti-Islam Salman Rushdie could rest assured that the writer’s nightmare will not end until the moment of his death and we will bestow kisses on the hands of whomsoever is able to execute this apostate.”
Effigies of Rushdie and the Queen were burnt in Pakistan, where presidential elections at the end of the year have destablised an already volatile political climate. Hundreds of protesters in Multan, Karachi and Lahore set fire to British flags and chanted “Death to Britain, death to Rushdie” and Islamist leaders called for nationwide protests after Friday prayers.
Ijaz-ul-Haq, the Religious Affairs Minister, told the assembly in Islamabad that the award of the knighthood excused suicide bombing. “If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet then it is justified,” he said.
He later retracted his statement, explaining that he had intended to say that knighting Rushdie will foster extremism. “If someone blows himself up, he will consider himself justified. How can we fight terrorism when those who commit blasphemy are rewarded by the West? We demand an apology by the British government. Their action has hurt the sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims.”
Pakistan’s national assembly earlier unanimously passed a resolution condemning Rushdie’s knighthood, which it said would encourage “contempt” for the Prophet Muhammad.
Rushdie was forced to go into hiding for almost a decade after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued the death sentence over The Satanic Verses.
On Valentine’s Day in 1989 the spiritual figurehead of the Iranian revolution pronounced on Teheran radio that: “The author of The Satanic Verses, which is against Islam, the Prophet, the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.”
In Britain, the subsequent hate campaign helped to politicise and radicalise a generation of young British Muslims. The taxpayer is believed to have spent more than £10 million protecting Rushdie.
Only Khomeini had the power officially to lift the fatwa and he died without doing so, but in 1998, the Iranian Foreign Minister promised his British counterpart, Robin Cook, that Iran would not implement it.
Gradually, Rushdie emerged back into the literary spotlight and in recent years has appeared at events in London and New York, where he now lives.
It is understood that when he is in this country, Rushdie continues to receive round-the-clock police protection.
Muhammad Ali Hosseini, Iran’s foreign affairs spokesman, said on Sunday that the knighthood “will definitely put the British officials in confrontation with Islamic societies. This act shows that insulting Islamic sacred values is not accidental. It is planned, organised, guided and supported by some Western countries.”
Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born into a Muslim family, to Bombay (now Mumbai) lawyer in 1947. He went to school in Rugby Shool and later King’s College, Cambridge.
A novelist, his book “The Satanic Verses” published in 1988 created so much controversy and turned into a serious diplomatic issue between UK and Iran where they broke off diplomatic relations for nine years. The issue was so significant that a lot of Sunni nations lauded and strongly supported the Shite Ayahtollah’s fatwa, which is a very rare phenomena.
Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org , has the synopsis:
The Satanic Verses and the Fatwa
See The Satanic Verses for a timeline of the events.
The publication of The Satanic Verses in September 1988 caused immediate controversy in the Islamic world because of what was perceived as an irreverent depiction of the prophet Muhammad. The title refers to a Muslim tradition that is related in the book. According to it, Muhammad (Mahound in the book) added verses (sura) to the Qur’an accepting three goddesses that used to be worshipped in Mecca as divine beings. According to the legend, Muhammad later revoked the verses, saying the devil tempted him to utter these lines to appease the Meccans (hence the Satanic verses). However, the narrator reveals to the reader that these disputed verses were actually from the mouth of the Archangel Gibreel. The book was banned in many countries with large Muslim communities. Muslim anger is directed mainly at the suggestion in the book that the religion of Islam was founded by Muhammad after experiencing hallucinations caused by smoking hashish and that his vision of the angel Gabriel was only that, a drug-induced hallucination. His biggest critics were his peers, such as Roald Dahl (author of children’s books) who called him “a dangerous opportunist”, Germaine Greer who called him “an Englishman with dark skin” and Hugh Trevor-Roper who said “I would not shed a tear if some British Muslims should waylay him in a dark street”. (http://weeklywire.com/ww/02-08-99/tw_book1.html)
On 14 February 1989, a fatwa requiring Rushdie’s execution was proclaimed on Radio Tehran by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran at the time, calling the book “blasphemous against Islam.” A bounty was offered for the death of Rushdie, who was thus forced to live under police protection for years to come. On 7 March 1989, the United Kingdom and Iran broke diplomatic relations over the Rushdie controversy. In this manner Khomeini became more popular, even in Sunni countries, and many Sunni figures approved of his fatwa.
Meanwhile, further violence occurred around the world, with the firebombing of bookstores. Muslim communities throughout the world held public rallies in which copies of the book were burned. Several people associated with translating or publishing the book were attacked and seriously injured or killed.
On 24 September 1998, as a precondition to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Britain, the Iranian government, then headed by moderate Mohammad Khatami, gave a public commitment that it would do nothing to harm Rushdie. But the hardliners in Iran have continued to reaffirm the death sentence. In early 2005, Khomeini’s fatwa was reaffirmed by Iran‘s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message to Muslim pilgrims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Additionally, the Revolutionary Guards have declared that the death sentence on him is still valid. Iran has rejected requests to withdraw the fatwa on the basis that only the person who issued it may withdraw it.
Salman Rushdie reported that he still receives a “sort of Valentine‘s card” from Iran each year on February 14 letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him. He was also quoted saying, “It’s reached the point where it’s a piece of rhetoric rather than a real threat.” Despite the threats on Rushdie, he has publicly said that his family has never been threatened and that his mother (who lived in Pakistan during the later years of her life) even received outpourings of support.
That was not so nice place to be and life to go through, especially after nineteen years, some people remembered as fresh as it was and still very much committed as they were, to defy someone else’s abused “Kurang-Ajar” interpretations to the universal concept “Freedom of Expression”.
Afterall, as they say, no man is an Island. In Rushdie’s case, he was made into an Island, for his own doings!
*An update as of 1900hrs, Tuesday 19 June 2007.
More reaction on the Knighthood of Salman Rushdie has taken place. Massive demonstrations were seen in Pakistan. The British High Commissioner, Robert Brinkley were summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.
BBC.com, www.bbc.com , has the story:
More anger over award to Rushdie
There have been more protests in Pakistan over Britain‘s award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie.
The assembly of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) passed a resolution saying the honour was part of a move to “hurt the feelings of Muslims”.
On Monday the national parliament condemned the award, demanding Britain retract it.
The publication of Sir Salman’s book The Satanic Verses in 1989 sparked protests by Muslims around the world.
A fatwa was issued in Iran, calling for his execution.
“This house strongly condemns the decision to confer the title of Sir on Salman Rushdie, who is hated in the Muslim world for his blasphemous book The Satanic Verses,” the NWFP resolution said, the AFP news agency reports.
“The move is part of a campaign being waged in Europe and the West to hurt the feelings of Muslims.”
It urged the national government to cut diplomatic ties with the UK.
The British High Commission in Islamabad moved to defuse the row on Monday night.
“Sir Salman’s knighthood is a reflection of his contribution to literature throughout a long and distinguished career which has seen him receive international recognition for a substantial body of work,” British High Commissioner Robert Brinkley said in the statement.
“It is simply untrue that this knighthood is intended as an insult to Islam or the Prophet Mohammed.”
On Monday Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Ejaz-ul-Haq caused uproar in parliament when he was accused of inciting violence during a debate of Sir Salman’s knighthood.
“If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified,” he said, according to the translation by the Reuters news agency.
The minister later had to return to the floor of the assembly to say that he was not trying to condone or incite terrorism but to stress its origins.
Pakistan’s parliamentary affairs minister Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, who proposed Monday’s resolution in the National Assembly, said the knighthood would “encourage people to commit blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad”.
On Sunday, Iran also criticised the knighthood, saying praising the “apostate” showed Islamophobia among British officials.
Like Iran, Pakistan is an Islamic republic with an overwhelmingly Muslim population which saw violent protests against The Satanic Verses in 1989.
Sir Salman, 59, was one of almost 950 people to appear on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, which is aimed at recognising outstanding achievement.
The controversial Indian-born author’s fourth book – The Satanic Verses in 1988 – describes a cosmic battle between good and evil and combines fantasy, philosophy and farce.
It was immediately condemned by the Islamic world because of its perceived blasphemous depiction of the prophet Muhammad.
It was banned in many countries with large Muslim communities and in 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s spiritual leader, issued a fatwa.
In 1998, the Iranian government said it would no longer support the fatwa, but some groups have said it is irrevocable.
The following year, Sir Salman returned to public life.
Of his knighthood for services to literature, Rushdie said: “I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognised in this way.”