JAIPUR, India — At an old Mughal palace accommodating what organizers called “the greatest literary show on earth,” the headliners on Sunday included Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra and Tom Stoppard. But the absence of another star, Salman Rushdie, continued to overshadow the event.
A free-speech controversy has raged at the event, the Jaipur Literature Festival, since Friday, when Mr. Rushdie said he would not attend because the law enforcement authorities had warned of a threat against his life by “paid assassins.” But the story took a twist over the weekend: Was there really a threat?
On Sunday, several Indian news media outlets suggested there was not, and quoted police sources whom they did not name saying so. In a Twitter message, Mr. Rushdie pointed to a front-page article in The Hindu, an English-language Indian newspaper, which contended that the assassination plot was invented by the police in Rajasthan, the state where the festival is being held, to discourage the author from attending. “I’ve investigated and believe that I was indeed lied to,” Mr. Rushdie wrote. “I am outraged and very angry.”
A Birmingham Imam has said that Muslims should not fight in the British armed forces on conscientious grounds due to their presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shaykh Asrar Rashid, a visiting cleric at the city’s mosques, also told the BBC the Queen was “a disgusting woman” for knighting author Salman Rushdie.
In 1989 Iran’s leaders called for the death of Mr Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, deemed “blasphemous”. The Muslim Council of Britain said the Imam’s views were not representative.
The British writer Hanif Kureishi decided to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rushdie affair by adapting for the stage his 1995 second novel “The Black Album”. The novel is set in 1988/89 and the Rushdie affair and radicalization of young Muslims are its central themes.
The Black Album charts the cultural and political development of impressionable Asian teenager Shahid, who moves from suburbia to college in London and is subsequently torn between two disparate lifestyles and loyalties – the Western liberalism of his lecturer Deedee, with whom he has a relationship, and the fundamentalism of his new Muslim friends led by the charismatic Riaz.
In the course of the story, the Islamist group burn a copy of Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses”, of which Shahid is appalled.
The play is being discussed in the context of whether or not Rushdie’s critics have succeeded. British lecturer and broadcaster Kenan Malik claims that the critics have lost the battle – as Rushdie is still being published –, but won the war, because it has become much more widespread not to offend another religion. The Black Album is on tour throughout the country, showing at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Oct 20 to 24 and Liverpool Playhouse from October 27 to 31, among other places.
A small Islamic sect that is deemed heretical by some mainstream Muslims has complained to Ofcom after being labelled “liable for death” by a Pakistani television show broadcast in Britain via the Sky satellite platform. The complaint, made by leaders of the Ahmadi community in Britain, is being investigated by the watchdog and raises concerns over how much control it has over the content of the burgeoning number of foreign language channels UK viewers can access. The comments were made during a live broadcast of Aalim Online, a religious discussion programme aired daily on Geo TV throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It is viewed by millions of Urdu speaking viewers worldwide. Aalim Online, available in Britain on Sky Channel 815, is presented by Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain, a former minister for religious affairs turned popular spiritual television host. Ofcom is investigating the 7 September edition of the show, which included views from a number of prominent Pakistani Muslims scholars as guest speakers. The broadcast coincided with the anniversary of a change in Pakistan’s constitution in 1974 that officially classified Ahmadis as “non-Muslims”. Human rights groups say this event legitimised persecution of the sect in Pakistan and eventually forced the leadership of the 70 million strong community to flee to London. The Ahmadis are deemed heretical by hardline Islamic authorities because of their belief that their 19th century founder was the Mahdi – Islam’s equivalent of the messiah – and the successor to the Prophet Mohamed. Dr Hussein asked his guests during the broadcast how orthodox Muslims should respond to the claims made by Ahmadis. One speaker, Dr Saeed Ahmad Innayatullah, responded: “As long as this sedition is alive and even one [Ahmadi] remains on this earth, there is need to eliminate it.” Two other speakers, meanwhile, used the Arabic phrase “Wajb-ul-Qatal” (liable for death) to describe those who believe in Ahmadi doctrine. Dr Hussein did not intervene to moderate those views, nor was a member of the Ahmadi community invited to speak. Earlier this year, Ofcom ruled Geo TV had breached guidelines during another prayer show hosted by Dr Hussein, when the host called for the death of Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie. During evening prayers he said: “Ruin Rushdie. I beg you for his death. O God, give him death.” Jerome Taylor reports.
Salman Rushdie is threatening to sue publisher John Blake Publishing Ltd. over a book by a former bodyguard that he says portrays him as mean, nasty, tight-fisted, arrogant, and extremely unpleasant. Rushdie’s lawyer Mark Stephens wrote a letter to the publisher, demanding that the book – called On Her Majesty’s Service – be withdrawn from publication. Rushdie has been accused of trying to stop freedom expression, which would be a curious move contrary to what he has long advocated. However, Rushdie has asserted that he is not trying to prevent his former bodyguard – Ron Evens – from publishing the book, but that if the publication goes as planned, there will be consequences and there will be a libel action, citing a difference between free-speech and libel.
A German theater has brought Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses to the stage, with no sign of trouble after authorities promised thorough security precautions. The Hans-Otto Theater in Potsdam says its version, which has 12 actors and ran for nearly four hours, is the first theatrical presentation of the novel. Iran’s late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because The Satanic Verses allegedly insulted Islam. The threat forced Rushdie to live in hiding for a decade. Theater director Uwe Eric Laufenberg had invited the author to Sunday’s premiere, but it had been unclear whether he would attend and Rushdie could not be seen in the audience. I think it is time for the Muslim world to say exactly what it finds so provocative about this book. Simply to say, _This book insults us’ is no longer enough at some point, Laufenberg said. He argued that the theatrical version could help to focus on the book’s contents and ease objections.
Potsdam, Germany – An Iranian writer in exile Monday described a Satanic Verses stage play and the anti-Islam short movie Fitna as “pure provocation” towards Muslims which played into the hands of fundamentalists. Speaking on Deutschlandradio Kultur, a national public radio channel, writer Bahman Nirumand described the two productions as “psychological warfare” under the mantle of “artistic freedom.” “I can assure you that the fundamentalists are extremely gratified by it,” he said. “They can use it to boost their position.” He compared the effect to a game of tennis, with one player exploiting the other’s unwise strokes. Nirumand appealed to Western intellectuals to cease this form of provocation and to differentiate Islam’s many aspects. “These allegedly artistic productions simply equate all Islam with violence,” he said. The first stage adaptation of The Satanic Verses, a controversial novel by Indian-born author Salman Rushdie, won applause from a German audience at its premiere, held under police guard on Sunday afternoon at Potsdam near Berlin. The adaptation in German digested Rushdie’s 700-page, 1988 book to a four-hour matinee at the Hans Otto Theatre in the city of Potsdam. The characters include a prophet named Mahound, a thinly disguised reference to Mohammed.
A stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses debuted without incident in Germany Sunday, despite worries about the controversial production before opening night. German police were dispatched both inside and outside the Hans Otto Theatre in Potsdam, located southwest of Berlin, for Sunday’s nearly four-hour-long performance. Some German Muslim groups had publicly complained about the production before the curtain went up on what is billed as the first stage play of Rushdie’s novel. The adaptation, for which Rushdie gave his consent, was created by the theatre’s director Uwe Eric Laufenberg and playwright Marcus Mislin. Police said that there were no direct threats or disturbances surrounding the event, but that uniformed and undercover officers had been assigned as a precaution. Indian-born British author Rushdie has long been the target of extremists for his novel, which was deemed blasphemous by many in the Muslim world.
A German book author said he wants to read aloud inside a Cologne mosque from “The Satanic Verses,” the 1988 novel by Salman Rushdie that some Muslims consider blasphemous and led to a 1989 fatwa against Rushdie. Just before political and religious leaders met in Berlin for the second national integration summit, journalist and author G_nter Wallraff, 64, proposed to read from Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” at a mosque to be built in Cologne by the western German city’s Turkish community. He said the Ankara-funded Ditib religious foundation had not been insulted and was discussing his proposal. The organization’s secretary for dialog, Bekir Alboga, said Wallraff’s idea had not been rejected outright, and that the Ditib board, would respond to the request.
Salman Rushdie’s knighthood provoked cries of rage among mollahs. The Pakistani Minister of Religious Affairs reckons that because of Rushdie’s provocations and blasphemies, it is not surprising that Muslims demonstrate their rage through violence and bombings. Several member of the Pakistani government expressed their own anger at the UK for exacerbating the alienation and indignation of Muslims communities in Europe and Asia.