Salman Rushdie must have been taken by a surprise by the kind of controversy his book ‘The Satanic Verses’ created. Being a controversial writer wasn’t anything new for him as he had already faced quite strong reactions against some of his earlier books such as the book that made Gen. Zia-ul-Haq extremely upset … but nothing could have compared to The Satanic Verses. It took the whole world by surprise.
During an interview, Salman has himself agreed that during the 5 years that he was busy writing the book, somewhere deep down he knew that its going to be his most controversial book as the Muslim world has this psyche of going wild over anything that dares talking about Islam’s Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh). Sometimes, it surprises me too when I see some Facebook Forums where people openly talk about God being an imaginary character but the moment someone starts criticizing Prophet Muhammad the whole mood of the forum changes and quite often the person has to pay a price.
A lot of people in Muslim World believe that whatever is written against or in criticism of Islam has a pre-planned strategy in the background and almost always its backed up by a Western Government or Agencies. Obviously, sometimes that may be the case as well but the point to think here is that is it really the case at all occasions ? And what about in the case of Salman Rushdie ?
Do you really get support for writing against Islam ?
Salman Rushdie affair took almost a decade to settle down, while its apparent that British Agencies helped him to hide and save his life, there are a lot of other issues which are often overlooked when people discuss the Rushdie Affair.
Fatwā issued by Ayatollah Khomeini:
After the book getting banned in various countries and some of the publishers pulling their hands away from supporting Salman, the biggest blow came out on 14th February 1989 when Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a Fatwa against Rushdie which was essentially an order to go for a hunt of this writer and kill him.
It surprises me when I see some Facebook Forums where people openly talk about God being an imaginary character but the moment someone starts criticizing Prophet Muhammad the whole mood of the forum changes
The incident caused a serious problem between Iran and the European Nations such as Germany, France and on top it was United Kingdom. Iran ordered to shut down foreign embassies on its soil and the staff working for the embassies had to leave Iran. Other countries did the same to the Irani Embassies overseas and the situation only got worse.
Compromise no.1 – UK to revise its strategy:
However, UK soon realized that it wasn’t in their interest to break relationship with Muslim World just for a book and one author. An author who wasn’t even English enough. It was quite a price to pay for supporting the Freedom of Expression thingy.
UK clearly started distancing itself from the controversy in an attempt to save its relationship with Iran while Rushdie was on run during all those months. He must have gone through a pretty rough time for sure.
Book’s Japanese Translator ‘Hitoshi Igarashi’ was stabbed to death in July 1991 and that sent a clear message to Western Powers that Muslims do take this whole matter very seriously.
Compromise no.2 – Rushdie’s Apology and back-door diplomacy:
Rushdie’s Apology to the Muslim world came as sort of surprise for many. Fans were bit disappointed on Salman’s compromise and they saw it as a defeat for the Humanity and Freedom of Expression. No one was ready to believe that Salman actually means when he says he wants to be a Muslim again but they also understood the extreme pressure and the lack of support he was getting from British Authorities that might have been the reason behind this Apology.
When Ruhollah Khomeini died all of a sudden, many people believed it could be a good news for Salman Rushdie but it soon turned out to be actually making the matter more complicated. Supreme Council of Iran found it impossible to even reconsider the Fatwa that Supreme Leader had issued during his lifetime, the hawks would go to any length to keep the Fatwa alive until Rushdie is dead.
Compromise no.3 – Iran reaching a deal with Rushdie:
However, it was the back-door diplomacy once again that gave an upper hand to the Relatively Moderate members of Supreme Council. Egypt’s ruler Hosni Mubarak also played a very important role in this compromise.
Finally, on On 24 September 1998, as a precondition to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Britain, the Iranian government, then headed by Mohammad Khatami, gave a public commitment that it would “neither support nor hinder assassination operations on Rushdie.”
Is this all nothing but an ugly game of compromises ? What happened to the famous term ‘Freedom of Expression’ that West always use, why did UK take its support back from supporting Rushdie for many months and years ? Why would Rushdie himself bow down and offer to become a Muslim again ?
On the other hand why would Iran settle down for a deal with Rushdie affair just for the sake of securing healthy relationship with Western World ? What happened to all those emotional claims that are attached to the love of Prophet Muhammad in muslim world ?