Almost 20 years ago, Salman Rushdie published his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, never realizing how this literary event would change his life. The Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran’s religious and political revolution, saw in the book “blasphemous” depictions of the prophet Muhammad, and then handed down a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death. For the next decade, Rushdie was driven underground, making only infrequent appearances in public. And it wasn’t until the late 90s that things simmered down, the death threats subsided, and the writer returned to living a semi-normal life. Then came this past week …Buckingham Palace announced Queen Elizabeth’s plans to knight Rushdie, making him Sir Salman, and it all began again. Recalling the Danish cartoon controversy that swept the Muslim world in 2005, ranking political officials, from Iran to Pakistan, have revived the threats against the British-Indian novelist as well as Britain, taking the Queen’s knighting as an intentional slight against Islam. The mere fact that Rushdie is a splendid writer whose body of work goes well beyond The Satanic Verses never quite figures into the picture, however. (Try giving Midnight’s Children a read to see what I mean.) You can get more on Part II of the Rushdie Affair here and here, and you can also watch Rushdie reading from The Satanic Verses below.
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