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How Salman Rushdie lived under the shadow of a fatwa for 30 years – as author is STABBED

More than 30 years ago, he was first forced into hiding by Iran’s theocratic dictatorship after the regime labeled The Satanic Verses a work of blasphemy.

From ever-changing safe houses, constant armed guards and a new identity, to finally finding a new home in the US, British author Salman Rushdie has now been stabbed on stage in New York – the alleged beating heart of free speech and culture.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, issued a fatwa – or religious ruling – calling on all Muslims to murder the celebrated atheist author and anyone involved in the publication of The Satanic Verses on February 14, 1989.

Rushdie was forced to live under the long shadow cast by the fatwa until it was finally lifted in 1998 by Iran’s harsh regime.

But for nine years the writer was constantly between hiding places and was guarded 24 hours a day by armed guards. He even took on an alias, Joseph Anton – a combination of the first names of two of his favorite writers, Conrad and Chekhov.

The fatwa also led to the murder of the book’s Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, who has been targeted by translators and publishers in Turkey, Norway, and Italy, and worldwide. riots and book burnings – while The Satanic Verses itself was banned in many countries.

Of the controversy with the Mail, Sir Salman said: ‘Being under the fatwa was like a prison, but I think one of the problems is that it looked glamorous from the outside as I sometimes appeared in places in Jags with people jumping. out to open the door and make sure you get in safely, and so on. Appearance who does he think he is? From my side it felt like a prison.

“There was a blunt argument that I was somehow doing it for personal benefit, to make myself more famous or to make money. At its most unpleasant, it was expressed to me from the Islamic side that the Jews were forcing me to do it. They said my [second] woman was jewish. She wasn’t, she was American.

“If I had just wanted to trade in an insult to Islam, I could have done it in a sentence instead of writing a 250,000-word novel, a work of fiction.”

Sir Salman Rushdie with a copy of The Satanic Verses at a 1992 Arlington press conference

Sir Salman Rushdie with a copy of The Satanic Verses at a 1992 Arlington press conference

Muslim activists strike a burning effigy of Salman Rushdie in New Delhi

Muslim activists strike a burning effigy of Salman Rushdie in New Delhi

Muslim activists strike a burning effigy of Salman Rushdie in New Delhi

Ayatollah Khomeini at his residence in the leafy Parisian suburb of Neauphle-le Chateau during his exile

Ayatollah Khomeini at his residence in the leafy Parisian suburb of Neauphle-le Chateau during his exile

Ayatollah Khomeini at his residence in the leafy Parisian suburb of Neauphle-le Chateau during his exile

“What you have to remember is that The Satanic Verses is not called Islam the prophet, it is not called Mohammed, the country is not called Arabia – it all happens in the dream of someone going mad.”

What still shocks him is that not a single radical Muslim in Britain who supported the call for his murder was ever prosecuted.

“There were occasions, like in Manchester, where Muslim leaders said to their congregation, ‘Tell me who in this audience would be willing to kill Rushdie?’ and everyone in the audience raised their hands. And the police thought this was okay.’

He says: ‘Suppose I were the queen and an imam said to his congregation, ‘Who would be ready to kill the queen?’ and everyone raised their hands. Would you think the police wouldn’t act?

“I’m just using the Queen as an example to dramatize this, but it seems odd that if it’s a novelist of foreign descent, so somehow not quite British, it should go unpunished.”

Rushdie remembers his separation from his wife Marianne as a particularly traumatic time. She claimed that the CIA knew of Rushdie’s whereabouts and so his cover was blown up. When he realized that she was lying, he decided to end the relationship.

In this file photo, taken on Feb. 26, 1989, Hezbollah militants burn an effigy of Rushdie

In this file photo, taken on Feb. 26, 1989, Hezbollah militants burn an effigy of Rushdie

In this file photo, taken on Feb. 26, 1989, Hezbollah militants burn an effigy of Rushdie

People rushed to help the author after the New York attack, whose motive is currently unknown

People rushed to help the author after the New York attack, whose motive is currently unknown

People rushed to help the author after the New York attack, whose motive is currently unknown

“It was very shocking. There was just a moment when I had to choose if I wanted to be alone in the middle of this hurricane with no one there for company, or if I had to somehow live with this person in whom it was hard to trust.

“It was terrible to hear from a police officer that they thought your wife was lying to you. It’s an experience most of us don’t have.

“And when she said it was the police who were to blame and that I shouldn’t trust them, a kind of ghost kicked in and I had to make my judgment. It became impossible for me to have faith in her truth. So in the end I thought it was better to break up.”

In an interview three years ago, he said: Islam was not a thing. Nobody thought that way. One of the things that has happened is that people in the West are more informed than they used to be.”

He added sadly, “I was 41 then, now I’m 71. Now I’m fine. We live in a world where the subject changes very quickly. And this is a very old topic. There are now many other things to be afraid of – and other people to kill.”

Rushdie, who rose to fame in 1981 with his novel Midnight’s Children, has also published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about the fatwa.

He was knighted in 2007 for his services to literature, a decision that sparked outrage in several Muslim countries, including Malaysia and Pakistan.

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