/ 17 January 2012

Rushdie in doubt for Jaipur Festival after threats

British author Salman Rushdie’s planned appearance at a literary festival in India was thrown into doubt on Tuesday due to security concerns caused by protests from influential Muslim clerics.

Rushdie was due to speak on Friday and Saturday at the five-day gathering in the city of Jaipur, 240km from New Delhi, but his name has been dropped from the programme of events published on the internet.

Event organisers, who declined to be named, said that Rushie’s advertised appearances had been removed from the programme for security reasons, but he was still expected to attend at some stage.

Security implications
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told the NDTV news channel on Tuesday: “Salman Rushdie’s presence does have security implications and we are keeping a close watch and have been in touch with the organisers … But at the same time we can’t prevent him from coming since he is a PIO [person of Indian origin].”

Festival producer Sanjoy Roy said: “He will not be in India on January 20 due to a change of schedule. The festival stands by its invitation.”

He did not give further details.

Last week, the Darululoom Deoband seminary in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh demanded the government stop Rushdie from entering the country because of his allegedly blasphemous writing about Islam.

Novel ‘insulted Muslims’
The novelist spent a decade in hiding after Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued the fatwa in 1989 calling for his death for passages in his novel The Satanic Verses.

“His books have hurt and insulted Muslims and Islam — how can he be a guest of this country?” Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani, the seminary vice-chancellor, said.

“We are not going to say anything about our plans if Rushdie comes to India. We are still in talks with the government and we are hopeful it will ban him.”

The seminary, which is one of the world’s most important Islamic universities, is known for its conservative teachings that are thought to have shaped the views of some radical Islamist groups such as the Taliban.

Jaipur’s literature festival attracts tens of thousands of Indian and overseas book fans every year with crowds able to mix with famous authors in the grounds of an old palace.

Rushdie, who won the Booker Prize for his 1981 novel Midnight’s Children, was born in Mumbai and previously attended the Jaipur festival in 2007. — Sapa-AFP