Rushdie’s Jaipur visit under cloud


    New Delhi, (IANS) Salman Rushdie’s proposed visit to Jaipur for the Literary Festival has come under cloud with the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband saying Monday that the Booker-prize winning author should not be allowed on Indian soil because he has “hurt the sentiments of Muslims the world over”.

    However, one of the organisers of the prestigious literary festival said Rushdie would be coming as scheduled.

    “Rushdie should not be allowed to visit India. If he visits India, it would be adding salt to the injuries of Muslims. He has hurt our religious sentiments,” Vice Chancellor of Deoband, India’s most influential Islamic seminary, Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani told IANS over phone from Deoband.

    Nomani said the Darul Uloom was yet to formally write to the government on the issue.

    “We will write to the external affairs ministry, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi if the government doesn’t cancel his visa,” Nomani said.

    Rushdie has been invited to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival Jan 20-24.

    Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamworks Productions, which produces the Jaipur Literature Festival, told IANS: “Rushdie is coming.”

    “A literature platform like the Jaipur festival is a place for free speech in the best democratic traditions. Salman Rushdie has attended several literary events and forums in India in recent years without incident. This includes his attending the Commonwealth Writers Prize awards in 2000, and the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2007,” Roy said.

    “In plural societies such as ours, it is imperative that we continue to allow avenues for unfettered literary expression,” he added.

    The writer is expected to take part in literary sessions on “Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The Chutneyfication of English” and “Shehar aur Sapna: The City as a Dream.”

    The 65-year-old author had been under attack by Islamic hardliners for his controversial book “The Satanic Verses”, published in 1988, for “allegedly blasphemy” against Prophet Mohammed. India was among the first countries to ban the book.

    Rushdie has been in India twice since the controversy. His first visit in 2000 to the country of his birth 12 years after “Satanic Verses” was banned created a flutter in the media. The writer was escorted around with unprecedented security.

    In 2007, Rushdie attended the festival at Jaipur. The visit came despite protests by some Muslim groups.

    Last year, speculative media reports that he had been invited to attend a Kashmiri literary festival, Harud, had whipped up a controversy in Jammu and Kashmir. The festival was eventually called off.

    The novel triggered controversy soon after it was published. Muslims world over protested, some of which turned violent. It also invited a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, the late supreme leader of Iran. Khomeini in February 1989 called for the death of Rushdie and his publishers.

    The fatwa was later revoked Sep 24, 1998.