January 12, 2012

Salman Rushdie in trouble again


Salman Rushdie, author of the Satanic Verses and famously the target of a fatwah by the Ayatollah Khomeni, is once again at the center of another controversy, according to a Times of India report:

It is the same old story for celebrated author Salman Rushdie, who has not been in the good books of Muslims ever since his controversial novel The Satanic Verses was published in 1988. The writer’s intended visit to India later this month to attend a literary festival is being opposed tooth and nail by a section of the community.

On Monday, Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband slammed the Union government’s decision to allow the UK-based novelist of Indian origin to participate in the Jaipur Literature Festival from January 20. Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, vice-chancellor of the Sunni seminary that is located in Saharanpur district of UP, said the Congress-led UPA’s act of granting a visa to “a person whom the Muslims of the world hate” was inappropriate.

“I call upon all the Muslim organisations of the country to mount pressure on the Centre to withdraw the visa and prevent him from visiting India, where scrores of community members still feel hurt owing to the anti-Islamic remarks in his writings,” Nomani told mediapersons in Deoband.

But the Indian government has ruled out barring Salman Rushdie from visiting India.  Rushdie holds a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card which entitles him to visit without a visa, nor is he required to apply to any authority of the government for entry. Rushdie himself blithely dismissed the issue, “Re: my Indian visit, for the record, I don’t need a visa,” he wrote on Twitter.

Rushdie is traveling to India to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival at the end of the month. According to the Times report, “On January 21, he – along with Rita Kothari and upcoming Melville House author Tarun Tejpal – is slated to discuss the nuances of English with noted writer Ira Pande on the topic ‘Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The chutnification of English’.”

Many believe that Rushdie’s participation is being politicized because of the up-coming Indian elections. The Guardian reports:

The state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, where Deoband is based, 100 miles northeast of Delhi, are being held on 4 March.

Muslims in the province, who number just over 18% of the total 1.028 million inhabitants, have been promised a controversially high 9% sub-quota of seats out of a total of 27% reserved for groups officially designated “backward”.

Nomani’s call may just be muscle-flexing as the wrangling heats up.

Below Indian TV, IBNLive, explores the political climate around the controversy. It’s interesting to note that Rushdie attended the 2007 Jaipur Literary Festival without any difficulty.

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.