Khomeini’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ fatwa that led to Salman Rushdie’s stabbing in New York

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Shweta Routh
Shweta Routh
Shweta Routh is a third-year student at KIIT University's School of Mass Communication. Her ambition is to become a good journalist and serve her country. She is a classical dancer who enjoys meeting new people and trying new things.

Salman Rushdie was attacked on the stage during a literary engagement at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. The perpetrator, identified as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old from New Jersey, assaulted Rushdie and the event moderator. According to authorities, the Anglo-Indian writer was wounded in the neck and abdomen and had surgery once he arrived at the hospital. Rushdie was helicoptered to the hospital. On Friday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul informed reporters that Rushdie is “alive” and “getting the care he requires.”

Salman Rushdie is likely to lose his eye; he also has severed nerves in his arm and liver damage due to the knife attack, said his impresario Andrew Wiley, quoted by Reuters. He added that Rushdie was put on a ventilator. Wiley said the news was not good. He said Salman would probably lose one of his eyes, the nerves in his arm have been severed, and his liver has been punctured, which is also damaged.

According to the New York police, the attacker acted alone. Before the attack, there would have been no threats, and there would be no indication of the reasons.

A doctor at the event, Rita Landman, who attended first aid, told the New York Times that the writer was alive after the attack and did not undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation. A pool of blood had formed under his body.

The moderator of the literary event, Henry Reese, co-founder of an NGO that offers protection to persecuted writers, suffered a slight wound to his head.

New York Gov. Kathy Hokul said she had instructed the state police to assist in the investigation of the incident.

A video shows the agitation in the hall and on stage immediately after the attack, with rescuers trying to revive the writer. The attacker was stopped on the spot by those present and is in the custody of the police.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was shocked by the news of what happened to Rushdie at a literary event in the United States. “All my thoughts right now are with his loved ones. We all hope everything goes well,” Johnson tweeted.

Khomeini’s fatwa

Salman Rushdie, 75, became world famous with his book “Midnight’s Children” in 1981. But the Anglo-Indian writer was also one of the first intellectuals accused of blasphemy against Islam, with death threats following his work “The Satanic Verses”, which forced him to live for nine years hidden under the protection of the British services. The book was banned in India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries.

The writer was sentenced to death by a ‘fatwa’ by the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, pronounced on February 14, 1986. After the fatwa, arsons and attacks on stores where the book was sold began in Western countries, in particular, the United States and Britain. Iran also offered a $3 million reward (later, $ 4 million was collected) for those who murdered Rushdie. In many Muslim countries, there were protest demonstrations, with ‘blasphemous’ copies of the book burned in public and bookstores devastated. Rushdie, who was then living in London, was placed under the protection of the British security services. Meanwhile, his Japanese translator, Igarashi Hitoshi, was murdered in 1991, and various other translators were attacked, including the Italian Ettore Capriolo. In 2000, the writer moved to the United States, where he still lives and acquired American citizenship. In 2005, the fatwa was renewed by the current Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In 1990, Rushdie publicly apologized, expressing words of respect for Islam.

Iranian organizations, some of whom are associated with the government, have raised millions of dollars in a bounty for Rushdie’s murder.

The threat to Rushdie’s life led the UK and Iran to break off diplomatic relations in March 1989. Iran said it would neither enforce nor revoke the fatwa when it reestablished ties with London nine years later, arguing that only Khomeini, who died in 1989, had the right to annul it.

India born 

Rushdie was born to a Muslim Kashmiri family in Bombay. At the age of 14, he went to study in England, where he later studied history at Cambridge. He worked in the theatre and then as a journalist. In 1964 he received British citizenship. Salman Rushdie’s semi-sci-fi debut, Grimus, went unnoticed by readers and critics. However, the next novel, Midnight’s Children, brought fame to Rushdie and is considered his best work. In 1993, this book won the Booker Prize as the best novel of all that received the Booker Prize in 25 years, and in 2008 it became the best book in the 40 years of the Booker Prize. The survey was conducted among readers. Following its success, Rushdie wrote Shame (1983), a Pakistani novel in the same style of magical realism. Rushdie was awarded the French Order of Literature and Art. Rushdie’s novels The Moor’s Farewell Sigh (1995) and The Ground Under Her Feet (1999) continue the themes of the search for self-identification through the example of emigrants, as well as the cult of celebrity in a modern globalizing world. His novel The Satanic Verses (1988) provoked violent protests from Muslims. One of the characters is written off from the Prophet Muhammad and exposes him in an unsightly light. From 2004 to 2006, he was President of the International PEN Center USA. In 2004, he married for the fourth time to Indian actress Padma Lakshmi. On June 16, 2007, on the occasion of the birthday of the Queen of Great Britain, Salman Rushdie was awarded a knighthood, which caused mass protests in the Muslim world. On July 10, 2008, in London, according to the results of readers’ voting on the Internet, Salman Rushdie was recognized as the best among the winners of the Booker Prize for all 40 years of its existence in terms of total literary merit. His children (Rushdie himself could not come to the ceremony) were awarded a booker’s special prize and 50 thousand pounds.

In his books, Rushdie raises questions about the existence of Islam in the modern world and the self-identification of Muslims and emigrants. Rushdie has been living in the USA since 2000.


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