Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Salman Rushdie Bashes Indian Government For Not Protecting Free Speech At Literary Fest

It's been almost 23 years since Sir Salman Rushdie had a death fatwa placed on his head by then Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. On February 14 1989, Khomeini issued the following:

"We are from Allah and to Allah we shall return." (Qoranic verse). 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 Koran, 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.

Less then a month later that fatwa was the catalyst for the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Britain and Iran.  It wasn't until 1998- in order to reestablish relations with the U.K.- that then President Mohammad Khatami had to make a statement claiming Iran would "neither support nor hinder assassination operations on Rushdie."  However, in 2005 they backtracked and the current Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared it was still cool to kill Rushdie for writing his 'blasphemous' novel "The Satanic Verses".  Banned in all but one Muslim-majority country (Turkey), it was also banned in several other nations including Venezuela and Rushdie's birthplace India.  It is no longer banned in Egypt and Libya, but still banned in India.

But what's most astonishing (or maybe not) is that after all these years people are still taking that fatwa to heart.   Rushdie was scheduled to speak at the Jaipur Literary Festival in India this week, but had to cancel because of assassination threats, and threats of violence.  Even a video-linked appearance was cancelled, although Rushdie has "doubts about the accuracy" of the intelligence sources that warned of  "paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to "eliminate" him.  Rusdhie believes the Indian government is kowtowing to Muslim extremists, and bashed officials for being more concerned about Muslim votes in upcoming elections than protecting free speech. He was also highly critical of

"Muslim groups that were so unscrupulous, and whose idea of free speech is that they are the only ones entitled to it". "[If] Anyone else, who they disagree with, wishes to open his mouth, they will try and stop that mouth. That's what we call tyranny. It's much worse than censorship because it comes with the threat of violence."

Rushdie has never been harmed but others affiliated with the work were not so lucky a publishers in Norway and Italy were shot and knifed respectively, and a Japanese translator was killed.

Sadly, Muslim extremists have long memories, great patience and unforgiving hearts.

Sources: DailyMailUK, GuardianUK, TelegraphUK

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