Salman rushdie and the fatwa Essay

This essay has a total of 1689 words and 8 pages.

salman rushdie and the fatwa


By Matthew Hanscom
November 2000

Salman Rushdie was seen by some as a famous novelist with great skill at what he does and
seen by others as a blasphemous heretic.

Rushdie was born in June 1947 in Bombay, India as the only son out of four children. His
family originates from Kashmir, so his first language was Urdu-Hindi, though he also
speaks English and the Bombay language Merethi. Many of his family members died when he
was very young, the worst of which was the death of his father in 1957. He grew up in a
very commercial environment where people were put to work in their teenage years. He
wrote his first book Midnight Children while he attended a cathedral school in Bombay, and
he found his calling as a novelist.

He then went on to attend Cambridge University. At Cambridge he studied history and wrote
a great paper on Muhammed which forms the basis of much of the Muhammed account in his
famous but blasphemous book The Satanic Verses. This book, which I will tell you about
later on, is a book that bashed the Islamic regime in Iran, and it is the reason a fatwa
(or death sentence) was placed on him.

After finishing college, he spent an unsuccessful two years in Karcchi, Pakistan. Rushdie
returned to London and found himself engaged to a British woman named Clarissa. His son
Zafer was then born in June 1979, but Salman and Clarissa divorced in 1987. He then
married Marianne Wigging, an American novelist living in London, in January 1988.

After he returned to England in 1970, he worked for about a decade as an advertising
copywriter. Some of the novels he wrote while in London are listed below:

Grimus - a 1976 novel that was a science fiction and got poor reviews and sold very few copies;
Midnight’s Children - won the Books Prize in 1981 and sold half a million copies;
Shame - was about Pakistan, was published in 1981 and won wide acclaim;
The Jaguar Smile - chronicled Rushdie’s brief trip to Nicaragua in July of 1986.
Then in September of 1988 he published the one book that could have killed him and ruined
his entire life, The Satanic Verses. This book was seen as blasphemous in the eyes of
some Muslims. This book bashed the way the Ayatollah Khomeini ran the country of Iran,
but some Muslims viewed it as bashing the Muslim faith itself.

The Novel and Its Effects
Protests about The Satanic Verses began even before the book’s official publication
on September 26, 1988. Two magazines, India Today and Sunday Review, published reviews of
the book, extracts from the book and interviews with the author which infuriated many
Muslim readers. The Review even stated that “The Satanic Verses is bound to trigger
an avalanche of protests from the ramparts.”

After the members of the Indian Parliament read these extracts, they were very angry with
what he said. Under the ruling of the Indian Customs Act his book was banned in India,
but it did not stop its publication in England. Copies of the book were given to some
curious Muslim readers even though the book was banned. So unless the book was pulled
from stores everywhere, they would still somehow circulate into India. Protests broke
out, and Rushdie was starting to be sent death threat letters from random people.

The Satanic Verses also won a different kind of “award” from India’s
Prime Minister, Indira Ghandi, on October 28, 1989, as she said that it was “the
most offensive, filthy and abusive book ever written by a hostile enemy of Islam.”
And it is true that some parts were abusive. One part of the book tells how abusive and
inhumane the army was in India, as they grabbed one Muslim and started removing parts of
his anatomy for no reason at all. This was right before many religious organizations
stepped in to fight against The Satanic Verses. The Union of Muslim Religious
Organizations hosted a crisis meeting to find a verdict right for Rushdie’s crime.
They thought to suggest to the Indian Parliament that Rushdie be criminally prosecuted on
the charge of blasphemy and that his book be pulled from the hands of any Muslim who owned

Rushdie’s life had been turned into a living hell. He took an unlisted phone
number, and when he was to leave his home, he was accompanied by ten bodyguards equipped
with weaponry and bulletproof Kevlar vesting.

Rallies started to protest this book’s publication in the forms of book burnings and
other radical acts like that. The biggest riot that took place was in London on January
29, 1989. Eight thousand fundamentalist Muslims marched for one day and one night in
protest of the book. This rally ended with a basic landfill of books being burned in
front of the homes of many people living in India. A man named Heinrich Heire stated that
“when you start burning books you end by burning men, too.” The biggest sign
of a radical burning was the burning of a Christian crucifix with copies of The Satanic
Verses strapped to the cross. This angered the Christians and set off a bit of rivalry
between the Muslims and the Christian church.
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