Saturday, October 10, 1998

Rushdie hurt by India's attitude

India has behaved shamefully towards Salman Rushdie, an Indian secular liberal progressive and broad-mined Muslim who faced the attacks of the fundamentalist Muslim world for couragesously writing the book "The Satanic Verses".

BBC reports:
World: South Asia

Rushdie 'hurt' by India ban

Publication of The Satanic Verses inflamed religious passions around the world

The British author Salman Rushdie says he feels hurt and humiliated by India, the country of his birth, because of its actions following the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses.

In an interview with an Indian magazine, Sunday, Mr Rushdie says he cannot visit India or even enter Indian buildings overseas.

Reflecting on the price he has paid for writing The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie says in the interview that the biggest loss has been the damage to his relationship with India.

He accuses the Indian government of banning the book without having read it, and of preventing him from travelling to India, even though he was born in the country and has property here.

[ image: Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi distanced his government from the fatwa]
Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi distanced his government from the fatwa
The Iranian government recently dissociated itself from the fatwa or death sentence imposed by the late Ayatollah Khomeini on Mr Rushdie for insulting Islam.

But subsequent declarations by senior Iranian clerics made it clear that the fatwa itself remains in place and can only be revoked by the person who issued it.

Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989.

No apology

Throughout his years in hiding, Mr Rushdie has insisted it was never his intention to offend Muslims, although he has not apologised for writing the book.

[ image: Ayatollah Khomeni, the only person who can revoke the fatwa, died in 1989]
Ayatollah Khomeni, the only person who can revoke the fatwa, died in 1989
At the time Mr Rushdie told a Calcutta-based magazine "There are no subjects which are off-limits and that includes God."

The publication of the book, ten years ago, provoked widespread protests by Muslims around the world, including riots in India, and the fatwa led to Mr Rushdie being forced to spend almost a decade in hiding under 24 hour police protection.

British Airways refused to carry him because of the threat of terrorist action, but India was the first of many countries to ban the book.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka followed suit.

Access denied

In the magazine interview, Mr Rushdie complains that he has not been allowed into Indian buildings abroad such as the Nehru Centre in London.

He was also told he would not be welcome at the Indian consulate in New York for celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of independence, even though he was in the city at the time.

To be forbidden to step into India or into Indian buildings abroad while the world was expressing his thoughts about India and flooding him with requests to write about the country was, he says, a terrible feeling of rejection.

In 1997, India also refused permission for the BBC to film an adaptation of Mr Rushdie's book Midnight's Children for fear that it would inflame religious tensions and relations with Pakistan which itself saw violent protests when The Satanic Verses was published.

Mr Rushdie is quoted as saying that he feels his relationship with India has changed forever, and his next novel is about saying goodbye to the country.

"I don't want to keep on writing about a place I am not visiting" he says, "that would be phoney."


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