/ 11 January 2012

Salman Rushdie will attend Jaipur festival despite protest

Salman Rushdie will be attending the Jaipur literature festival later this month, organisers have said, despite calls from Islamic clerics to prevent the author of The Satanic Verses from entering India.

India’s best-known Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband said yesterday that Rushdie has “hurt the sentiments of Muslims the world over” and should therefore not be allowed to visit India for the Jaipur festival, which runs from January 20 to 24 and where he is set to talk at a session on “Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The Chutneyfication of English”.

Deoband vice chancellor Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani told reporters in India that “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.”

Nomani was referring to Rushdie’s controversial 1988 novel The Satanic Verses. Banned in India, the book prompted Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to call for Rushdie’s execution, saying that it insulted Islam, Mohammed and the Qur’an and sending Rushdie into hiding for a decade. Nomani told the Times of India that if the government does not cancel Rushdie’s visa, Deoband will “write to the external affairs ministry, prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi” about the issue.

Ignoring the controversy
Rushdie has visited India several times in recent years, including in 2007 for the Jaipur festival when there were similar objections raised. The author himself brushed off the latest controversy, writing on Twitter “Re: my Indian visit, for the record, I don’t need a visa”, and retweeting journalist Barkha Dutt’s comment: “Ridiculous controversy being raised over @SalmanRushdie’s visit to India. In my view shouldn’t get media space either. Grow up India.”

Festival organisers said this morning that Rushdie would “absolutely” be attending the festival. “A literature platform like the Jaipur festival is a place for free speech in the best democratic traditions. Salman Rushdie has attended several literary events and forums in India in recent years without incident. This includes his attending the Commonwealth Writers Prize awards in 2000, and the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2007,” said Sanjoy Roy, managing director of the festival’s producers, Teamwork Productions, in a statement. “In plural societies such as ours, it is imperative that we continue to allow avenues for unfettered literary expression.” —