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Salman Rushdie, hero of free expression, will write about the fatwa

February 25, 2010

Rushdie is often in the company of beautiful women like actress Pia Glenn.

Salman Rushdie, by any measure the most important writer of the past 30 years, announced this week plans to write a book about the decade he spent in hiding after Iranian tyrant Ayatollah Khomeini placed a bounty on his head. Ironically, a British bookseller says such a book would sell better than anything Rushdie’s written in years.

Rushdie’s remarks came Tuesday at Emory University, where an exhibit of his personal papers opens on Friday, according to the Associated Press.

“It’s my story and at some point it needs to be told,” Rushdie told assembled reporters. “That point is getting closer, I think.”

Now 62, Rushdie was forced into hiding in Great Britain after Khomeini, Iran’s religious and political ruler, issued a “fatwa” against the Anglo-Indian writer for his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses.

“This is one of the most fascinating chapters in recent literary history,” Jon Howells, of the British bookstore chain Waterstone’s, told the Guardian. “The ironic thing is that this may be his most commercial book in years.”

Taking offense at what he considered sacrilegious depictions of the Prophet Mohammed in the book, Khomeini declared it every Muslim’s duty to murder Rushdie on sight, and offered a $3 million reward. A secular Muslim, Rushdie went into hiding for the next decade, protected by British police.

Already one of the most honored writers in the world — his 1981 novel Midnight’s Children has won the Man Booker Prize three times — Rushdie refused to be silenced by the fatwa, producing a string of novels during his decade underground, including Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990), The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) and The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999).

After the Iranian government, seeking normal relations with Britain, promised not to pursue the fatwa in 1998, Rushdie gradually emerged into public life again. By the time of the 2001 terror attacks, he was living openly in New York. He’s written steadily, producing novels such as Fury (2001), Shalimar the Clown (2005), and The Enchantress of Florence (2008).

Rushdie has also traveled whenever and wherever he likes, and without bodyguards. I’ve had the chance to meet him in South Florida several times in recent years. In 2008, I chatted with him in the rabbi’s office at Temple Judea in Coral Gables before he took the stage to address a sold-out crowd of some 600 book lovers.

He sipped vodka behind the rabbi’s desk, greeting well wishers. He expounded freely on literature and politics, but unlike many celebrated brainiacs, Rushdie was also clearly interested in hearing what other people in the room had to say. You could see the gleam of active listening in his famous hooded eyes.

Even without the fatwa and the controversy surrounding The Satanic Verses, Rushdie would be a major world writer. But with them, he becomes the most important writer alive — more famous than Stephen King, more politically significant than Vaclav Havel, more honored than almost anyone.

The fatwa, which occasioned riots in Muslim cities worldwide, and bomb threats against Rushdie’s publishers and booksellers, prefigured the cultural tension between Islamic fundamentalism and Western liberalism that came to the forefront after 9-11.

I should note that Iran has never rescinded the fatwa, but merely agreed not to push it. Theoretically, Rushdie is still subject to assassination.

“I returned to public life just by wanting to,” Rushdie said that evening in the rabbi’s office. “Yes, there is an agreement with Iran, but in the end it’s your head. If I wait for the moment when it’s 100 percent fine, that moment will never come.

“I think that has a wider implication than me. There’s nothing like 100 percent security, only levels of insecurity. Once you accept that, you’re free.”

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Candice permalink
    February 25, 2010 1:55 pm

    I was living in NYC and working in the publishing world when The Santanic Verses came out. I remember the protests in front of the publishing house just down the street from the one in which I worked. Never could have guessed then what has since occurred between the US and the Muslim world. Interesting blog, Chauncey Mabe.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 26, 2010 12:08 am

      Yes, but Rushdie is a symbol of hope, too, being the very definition of a secular Muslim with liberal democratic values. What we’d call a secular humanist. And he’s not the only one.

  2. rachel permalink
    February 25, 2010 3:04 pm

    Yes interesting blog, Chauncey Mabe. I admire Rushdie as a person, as a figure, as a symbol, and I guess I maybe admire him as a writer. In the kind of way where I don’t really ever want to read him again. I read “Midnight’s Children” in college and found it long and over the top, and long, and slightly painful.

    Also: the photograph, is his hand on her tush because he needs to claim her and assert himself for all the world to see, or just where it naturally falls, given the disparity in height?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 26, 2010 12:10 am

      There were many photos of these two I could have chosen from, and trust me, she seems plenty into him. So I don’t think she minds where his hand is, or why.

    • Shahzaman Ali permalink
      August 11, 2010 5:13 am

      I’ll not take even waste more time to debate on this rubbish book written by Salman Rushudi i.e. Satanic Verses… I will not say this book as controversial? Because controversy ever created by the knowledge and the author of this book even has no knowledge about Islam or Islamic history, that’s why it’s unconditionally rejected.
      It’s all about the jealousy and the purpose to behind publishing this book is to make money?
      Salman Rushudi born in India in a middle class poor family, having no name, and today he is billionaire? Just because of this stupid book having no background and historical analysis. He trickily collected those verses of Quran which were not applicable according to the time and age. I code a simple example, “first a baby feeds through his/her mother’s breast, then in 2nd stage he uses feeder to take milk and in last stage he uses glass to take milk” similarly this, Quran’s some previous orders are automatically considered inapplicable, and that half minded person Salman Rushudi collected those verses.. Now here I ask one question to Salman Rushudi, as now he is adult, so can he take milk directly from her mother’s breast?? I am sure he will say “yes”…! Because he has no sense..
      The worst nation of this world is UK Government? It’s so foolish and stupid nation, because this government awarded to Salaman Rushudi while he had written some objectionable words about their Ex UK Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher in his book (Satanic Verses) he used words about her as “FEMALE DOG”
      Nice…..! look at this UK Government and its criteria for honoring to an abuser!
      Regarding Indians.. So this is also the 2nd foolish and stupid nation of the world…. Because in “Satanic Verses” Salman Rushudi had given abuse to their holly personalities “Seeta and Geeta” while Indians love to Salman Rushudi…. Ok should I abuse to Indians great “Kaali Maata” to receiving the love by Indians? Because they love to those who are used to the abusing to their holly personalities…..
      In the last, simply this book is absolutely a drama which based on self cheap fame called notorious fame.. And 2nd purpose of Salman Rushudi is make some money by pubslishing this book and also he was needed a shelter by the United Kingdom after publishing this book
      So I advise to the readers of this boo, please use your mind and see who is misleading you for fun…

      Thanks
      Shahzaman Ali

  3. John Karwacki permalink
    February 25, 2010 10:06 pm

    Tried to read “The Satanic Verses” but could not find a way through it. Maybe it was the time and place. Since you consider hime “important”, Chauncey, perhaps I will go back and try again. The fatwa reminds me once again why I have a problem with any form of fundelmantalism.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 26, 2010 12:12 am

      Uh…You will notice I say he is the most important writer of his time, not the best. I admire his talent, but like Rachel find him over the top and excessively glib at times. So don’t go back and read him on my account. On the other hand, I have met very, very few famous people who made such a positive impression on me. I like him tremendously.

  4. February 26, 2010 9:30 am

    He has let us know what his religion is really about. Ninety Nine percent of the Muslims are wonderful caring people. The radicals have high jacked the religion. You see them on TV and the likes. It gives an untrue representation. What about people like Ali. He is a man of peace . He took his fame and talked peace, kindness and tolerance. Rachel, until you said some thing I did not notice.

    Also to let you folks know the Dali Lama has recently traveled to PurpleUmpkin. See you never know where a path may lead you.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 26, 2010 11:41 am

      An excellent point. Fareed Zakaria recently reported in Newsweek how moderate Muslims have waged jihad on the extremists — and are winning. See: http://www.newsweek.com/id/233607

  5. Shahzaman Ali permalink
    June 28, 2010 2:51 pm

    Hi everyone!

    I’ll not take even waste more time to debate on this rubbish book written by Salman Rushudi i.e. Satanic Verses… I will not say this book as controversial? Because controversy ever created by the knowledge and the author of this book even has no knowledge about Islam or Islamic history, that’s why it’s unconditionally rejected.

    It’s all about the jealousy and the purpose to behind publishing this book is to make money?
    Salman Rushudi born in India in a middle class poor family, having no name, and today he is billionaire? Just because of this stupid book having no background and historical analysis. He trickily collected those verses of Quran which were not applicable according to the time and age. I code a simple example, “first a baby feeds through his/her mother’s breast, then in 2nd stage he uses feeder to take milk and in last stage he uses glass to take milk” similarly this, Quran’s some previous orders are automatically considered inapplicable, and that half minded person Salman Rushudi collected those verses.. Now here I ask one question to Salman Rushudi, as now he is adult, so can he take milk directly from her mother’s breast?? I am sure he will say “yes”…! Because he has no sense..

    The worst nation of this world is UK Government? It’s so foolish and stupid nation, because this government awarded to Salaman Rushudi while he had written some objectionable words about their Ex UK Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher in his book (Satanic Verses) he used words about her as “FEMALE DOG”

    Nice…..! look at this UK Government and its criteria for honoring to an abuser!

    Regarding Indians.. So this is also the 2nd foolish and stupid nation of the world…. Because in “Satanic Verses” Salman Rushudi had given abuse to their holly personalities “Seeta and Geeta” while Indians love to Salman Rushudi…. Ok should I abuse to Indians great “Kaali Maata” to receiving the love by Indians? Because they love to those who are used to the abusing to their holly personalities…..

    In the last, simply this book is absolutely a drama which based on self cheap fame called notorious fame.. And 2nd purpose of Salman Rushudi is to making money through this negative efforts.

    I also advise to the readers of Hi everyone!

    I’ll not take even waste more time to debate on this rubbish book written by Salman Rushudi i.e. Satanic Verses… I will not say this book as controversial? Because controversy ever created by the knowledge and the author of this book even has no knowledge about Islam or Islamic history, that’s why it’s unconditionally rejected.

    It’s all about the jealousy and the purpose to behind publishing this book is to make money?
    Salman Rushudi born in India in a middle class poor family, having no name, and today he is billionaire? Just because of this stupid book having no background and historical analysis. He trickily collected those verses of Quran which were not applicable according to the time and age. I code a simple example, “first a baby feeds through his/her mother’s breast, then in 2nd stage he uses feeder to take milk and in last stage he uses glass to take milk” similarly this, Quran’s some previous orders are automatically considered inapplicable, and that half minded person Salman Rushudi collected those verses.. Now here I ask one question to Salman Rushudi, as now he is adult, so can he take milk directly from her mother’s breast?? I am sure he will say “yes”…! Because he has no sense..

    The worst nation of this world is UK Government? It’s so foolish and stupid nation, because this government awarded to Salaman Rushudi while he had written some objectionable words about their Ex UK Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher in his book (Satanic Verses) he used words about her as “FEMALE DOG”

    Nice…..! This is UK Government and its criteria for honoring to an abuser

    Regarding Indians.. So this is also the 2nd foolish and stupid nation of the world…. Because in “Satanic Verses” Salman Rushudi had given abuse to their holly personalities “Seeta and Geeta” while Indians love to Salman Rushudi…. Ok should I abuse to Indians great “Kaali Maata” to receiving the love by Indians? Because they love to those who are used to the abusing to their holly personalities…..

    In the last, simply this book is absolutely a drama which based on self cheap fame called notorious fame.. And 2nd purpose of Salman Rushudi is to making money through this negative efforts.

    I also advsie to the readers of Hi everyone!

    I’ll not take even waste more time to debate on this rubbish book written by Salman Rushudi i.e. Satanic Verses… I will not say this book as controversial? Because controversy ever created by the knowledge and the author of this book even has no knowledge about Islam or Islamic history, that’s why it’s unconditionally rejected.

    It’s all about the jealousy and the purpose to behind publishing this book is to make money?
    Salman Rushudi born in India in a middle class poor family, having no name, and today he is billionaire? Just because of this stupid book having no background and historical analysis. He trickily collected those verses of Quran which were not applicable according to the time and age. I code a simple example, “first a baby feeds through his/her mother’s breast, then in 2nd stage he uses feeder to take milk and in last stage he uses glass to take milk” similarly this, Quran’s some previous orders are automatically considered inapplicable, and that half minded person Salman Rushudi collected those verses.. Now here I ask one question to Salman Rushudi, as now he is adult, so can he take milk directly from her mother’s breast?? I am sure he will say “yes”…! Because he has no sense..

    The worst nation of this world is UK Government? It’s so foolish and stupid nation, because this government awarded to Salaman Rushudi while he had written some objectionable words about their Ex UK Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher in his book (Satanic Verses) he used words about her as “FEMALE DOG”

    Nice…..! This is UK Government and its criteria for honoring to an abuser

    Regarding Indians.. So this is also the 2nd foolish and stupid nation of the world…. Because in “Satanic Verses” Salman Rushudi had given abuse to their holly personalities “Seeta and Geeta” while Indians love to Salman Rushudi…. Ok should I abuse to Indians great “Kaali Maata” to receiving the love by Indians? Because they love to those who are used to the abusing to their holly personalities…..

    In the last, simply this book is absolutely a drama which based on self cheap fame called notorious fame.. And 2nd purpose of Salman Rushudi is to making money through this negative efforts.

    I will also want to advise to the readers of this book, that they must be positive regarding Islam, and they should well understand the negative aim of this author Salman Rushudi.

    Thanks

    Shahzaman Ali

  6. Shahzaman Ali permalink
    June 28, 2010 2:59 pm

    1. Hi everyone!
    I’ll not take even waste more time to debate on this rubbish book written by Salman Rushudi i.e. Satanic Verses… I will not say this book as controversial? Because controversy ever created by the knowledge and the author of this book even has no knowledge about Islam or Islamic history, that’s why it’s unconditionally rejected.
    It’s all about the jealousy and the purpose to behind publishing this book is to make money?
    Salman Rushudi born in India in a middle class poor family, having no name, and today he is billionaire? Just because of this stupid book having no background and historical analysis. He trickily collected those verses of Quran which were not applicable according to the time and age. I code a simple example, “first a baby feeds through his/her mother’s breast, then in 2nd stage he uses feeder to take milk and in last stage he uses glass to take milk” similarly this, Quran’s some previous orders are automatically considered inapplicable, and that half minded person Salman Rushudi collected those verses.. Now here I ask one question to Salman Rushudi, as now he is adult, so can he take milk directly from her mother’s breast?? I am sure he will say “yes”…! Because he has no sense..
    The worst nation of this world is UK Government? It’s so foolish and stupid nation, because this government awarded to Salaman Rushudi while he had written some objectionable words about their Ex UK Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher in his book (Satanic Verses) he used words about her as “FEMALE DOG”
    Nice…..! look at this UK Government and its criteria for honoring to an abuser!
    Regarding Indians.. So this is also the 2nd foolish and stupid nation of the world…. Because in “Satanic Verses” Salman Rushudi had given abuse to their holly personalities “Seeta and Geeta” while Indians love to Salman Rushudi…. Ok should I abuse to Indians great “Kaali Maata” to receiving the love by Indians? Because they love to those who are used to the abusing to their holly personalities…..
    In the last, simply this book is absolutely a drama which based on self cheap fame called notorious fame.. And 2nd purpose of Salman Rushudi is make some money by pubslishing this book and also he was needed a shelter by the United Kingdom after publishing this book
    So I advise to the readers of this boo, please use your mind and see who is misleading you for fun…

    Thanks
    Shahzaman Ali

  7. Shahzaman Ali permalink
    July 8, 2010 12:31 pm

    I am Shahzama Ali again on this forum,
    I passed some comments on Salman Rushdi’s book, but no one has dared to challenge this. Why?

    I want you people come up with your comments so that I would be able to reply you accordingly his notorious propaganda which he is spreading to make you fool not only to the peoples but to the Nations also.

    I have keenly read this fucking book “satanic verses” written by Salman Rushdi, and I got all is rubbish

    Shahzaman Ali

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