L'affaire Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses controversy refers to the heated and frequently violent reaction of Muslims to the publication of Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie's fourth novel The Satanic Verses, which was first published in 1988. Some Muslims were offended even by its title, thinking it implied that the Qur'an was "the work of the Devil."[1]

It was subsequently banned in India, Bangladesh, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, Singapore, and Venezuela following the angry and violent reaction from some Muslims and Islamic groups.[2]

In the United States, numerous bookstores received threats, and two bookstores were bombed for stocking the novel. In addition, the Riverdale Press newspaper office was bombed in retaliation for criticizing the many stores which decided to pull the novel from their shelves.[3]

In the United Kingdom, there were six separate bombings at various bookstores in London and York, and an additional three stores around the UK discovered unexploded devices on their premises. This unexpected level of violence resulted in almost no-one daring to sell the novel openly in the UK.[4]

In 1989 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie, and Ayatollah Hassan Saneii in 2003 offered a bounty of $3 million[5] to whomever accomplishes the task. In 2003, the Revolutionary Guards of Iran renewed the fatwa.[6]

The famous convert to Islam, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), voiced his support for the fatwa,[7] as did many Western Islamic bodies, such as the European Union of Islamic Students` Associations which issued a statement offering its services to Khomeini, and the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain.[8][9]

The Japanese translator of his novel was stabbed to death, the Italian translator seriously wounded, the Norwegian publisher seriously injured in a shooting, and thirty-seven people were also burnt to death by a mob of 2,000 Muslims in a Turkish hotel for their refusal to hand over the Turkish translator of the novel.[10]

Fresh protests were sparked around the world following Salman Rushdie's knighthood in 2007. The Pakistani Ulema Council, a body claiming to be the biggest of its kind in Pakistan with 2000 scholars, announced that they had awarded Osama bin Laden with the title Saifullah (Sword of Allah),[11] their highest honour, in response to the knighthood, calling Bin Laden a "Muslim warrior".[12]

Effigies of the writer were publicly burnt in Pakistan and Malaysia,[13] and further bounties were offered from Iran and Pakistan.[14][15] Some have linked the knighthood to the 2007 attempted car bombings in London.[16][17]

Mark Durie, a linguistics and theology PhD, and Islamic historian, wrote about this incident in the context of how 'fitna' (oppression) can be viewed by Muslims.

Lord Ahmed objected to Salman Rushdie being knighted, because he had ‘blood on his hands’. But one must ask, ‘What blood, and who shed it?’ While it is true that translators of Rushdie’s books were assassinated, and Muslims died in riots instigated by those who were calling for Rushdie’s blood, from Lord Ahmed’s perspective, it is not the killers who are to be held accountable for these deaths, but the author whose fitna provided a pretext for their aggression. The Queen, in knighting Rushdie had ‘hurt the sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims’ said Pakistan Religious Affairs Minister, Ijaz-ul-Haq, who also proposed that ‘If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British Government apologizes and withdraws the “sir” title.’ This illustrates the principle that fitna – in this case dishonoring Muslims by knighting Rushdie – ‘is worse than slaughter’ – in the form of suicide bombing targeting British citizens.
Durie, Mark; Ye'or, Bat. The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom (p. 156-157). Deror Books.

See Also

  • Free Speech - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Free Speech
  • Satanic Verses - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Satanic Verses

External Links


  1. John D. Erickson. (1998). Islam and Postcolonial Narrative. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Ian Richard Netton. (1996). Text and Trauma: An East-West Primer. Richmond, UK: Routledge Curzon.
  3. Riverdale Press To Be Honored - New York Times, May 9, 1989
  4. Pipes, (1990) p.169-171
  5. James Hamilton - Revived fatwa puts $3m bounty on Rushdie - Sunday Herald, February 16, 2003
  6. Iran 'renews' Rushdie death sentence - BBC News, February 15, 2003
  7. Cat Stevens' comments about Salman Rushdie - Wikipedia, accessed September 29, 2010
  8. Rushdie's relief over fatwa move - BBC News, September 23, 1998
  9. Karen Edwards - Rushdie death warrant intact - The Independent, February 13, 2000
  10. Dr. Koenraad Elst - Afterword: The Rushdie Affair's Legacy - Koenraad Elst's Indology Site, accessed March 28, 2012
  11. 'Suicide' minister may go to UK - BBC News, June 21, 2007
  12. Rana Jawad - Pakistani Scholars Pay Respect to Bin Laden - Agence France Presse, June 22, 2007
  13. Day of Pakistan Rushdie protests - BBC News, June 22, 2007.
  14. Tom Hundley - Rushdie, Britain stir Muslim world's fury - Chicago Tribune, June 20, 2007
  15. Pak traders offer Rs 10 mn reward for Rushdie's head - Times of India, June 22, 2007
  16. Doug Saunders - Luck averts car-bomb carnage in London - Saturday's Globe and Mail, June 30, 2007
  17. London bomb warning on internet website - Malaysia Sun, June 29, 2007