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The non-visit of Salman Rushdie to the country – a big shame ..




Let me start with a quick point. I have not read the Satanic Verses, so I don’t know whether the book is as insulting to the feelings of Muslims as is made out to be. Let us assume that the book is incredibly insulting and hurts the feelings of Muslims p(with a slight Devil’s Advocate – I can bet most of the people who have been voicing their protest against the author and the book have not read the book, but have heard that the author denigrates the religion and the Prophet). So, ever since the emergence of the book, the author has been in hiding, with a death threat against him by the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, however, the administration of Khatami moderated this threat with the statement that the Iranian Government is not seriously expecting this fatwa to be carried out.
All this happened many years ago, so why is this issue coming up again ? Well, the author is of Indian origin, and having a PIO card, the author can come to India any time, without the need of applying for a visa. This made the promised attendance of the author in the Jaipur Literature Festival controversial. And what made it controversial ? This entire discussion is just like pulling a thread and seeing what emerges from the thread …

There was no problem with respect to the attendance of the author in the Literature Festival. And then the Deoband based Darul Uloom raised the issue that the Government should not give a visa to the author and prevent him from coming to India. Given that the Congress party is seeking to gain a good upper hand in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections and has been trying to gain back the support of the Muslim community in the elections, it would be fairly logical to assume that the Congress would need to be on the right sight of this controversial issue, and not show any indication that it is insensitive to the hurt of the Muslim community.
Soon after this, there was suddenly a lot of activity. When the famous artist MF Hussain was charged with case after case, to the extent that he felt hounded and moved out of India, there was a lot of expression on behalf of various parties (including the Congress) that we should support the right of expression, and that everything should go through process, and nobody should be allowed to take the law in their own hands. Now, Darul Uloom has never stated anything that could be seen as encouraging violence, and has only expressed its conservative opinion, but it should have been the Congress and other parties who should have come out in the support of freedom of expression. I did not hear a single opinion from any of the parties in support of Salman Rushdie.
The main basis of the argument is that if Salman Rushdie has committed a crime, he should be prosecuted under the law of the land; and if this is not the case, then his presence in the country should be encouraged (especially if he is being pressured against by fundamentalist forces). Now, of course it is too late, since Salman Rushdie has decided against coming to India for the literature festival on the basis of security inputs that there was a threat to his life. One does not really know whether there is such a threat or not, since the Maharashtra Police today have denied that they provided such an input to him.




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