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From Condemnation to Iran's 'Praise' for Stabber: How World Reacted to Attack on Salman Rushdie

News18 logo News18 13-08-2022 News Desk
From Condemnation to Iran's 'Praise' for Stabber: How World Reacted to Attack on Salman Rushdie © Provided by News18 From Condemnation to Iran's 'Praise' for Stabber: How World Reacted to Attack on Salman Rushdie

The world reacted with shock and anger to the brutal stabbing attack on controversial author Salman Rushdie. Indian personalities, including Congress MP Shashi Tharoor to UK and French leaders joined their voice in condemnation against the incident, calling it an attack on free speech.

Rushdie, whose book ‘Satanic Verses’ had led a fatwa being issued against him had caused him to be secluded for about a decade. After the attack on him, Iranian conservative media hailed the series of events, calling Rushdie’s works depraved.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled” by the stabbing of writer Salman Rushdie. “Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend,” tweeted Johnson. “Right now my thoughts are with his loved ones. We are all hoping he is okay.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said his country stood with Rushdie. “For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism…. His battle is ours, a universal one. More than ever today, we stand by his side,” he said on Twitter.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor called it an attack on the Freedom of Expression. In a report for the Quint, Tharoor said, “The stabbing is, first of all, an unacceptable assault on freedom of expression. The reply to offensive words always ought to be with words, not knives or bullets. If writers have to go around fearing that their creative work could result in assassination, the threat of violence becomes an extreme form of censorship. The attack also does a disservice to the Muslim community, raising the spectre of intolerance and violence that many are only too quick to associate with Islam. The episode will reinforce the prejudices of bigots everywhere against the religion and its adherents.”

And K Natwar Singh, who was a Union minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government that banned Salman Rushdie’s controversial book “The Satanic Verses”, strongly defended the decision on, asserting it was taken “purely” for law and order reasons. Singh, who was the minister of state for external affairs when the book was banned in 1988, said he was part of the decision and had told the then prime minister the book could cause serious law and order problems as feelings were running very high.

Singh (91) rejected as “rubbish” the charge by critics the Rajiv Gandhi government’s decision to ban the book was driven by appeasement towards Muslims. “I don’t think it (the decision to ban the book) was wrong because you see it had led to law and order problems, particularly in Kashmir. In other parts of India also there was disquiet,” Singh told PTI. “Rajiv Gandhi asked me what should be done. I said, ‘all my life I have been totally opposed to banning books but when it comes to law and order even a book of a great writer like Rushdie should be banned’,” the diplomat-turned-politician said.

Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ is one of the great novels of the 20th century but the decision to ban “The Satanic Verses” was taken purely for law and order reasons, Singh asserted.

Meanwhile, Iranian ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan on Saturday hailed the man who stabbed British author Salman Rushdie — the target of a 1989 Iranian fatwa calling for his death. “Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and depraved Salman Rushdie in New York,” wrote the paper, whose chief is appointed by current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Let us kiss the hands of the one who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife,” the daily added. With the exception of reformist publication Etemad, Iranian media followed a similar line, describing Rushdie as an “apostate”. State-owned paper Iran said that the “neck of the devil” had been “cut by a razor”. Iranian authorities have yet to make any official comment on the stabbing attack against Rushdie.

But Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to the negotiating team for Iran’s nuclear talks in Vienna, wrote on Twitter: “I won’t be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam.”

“But, isn’t it odd that as we near a potential nuclear deal, the US makes claims about a hit on Bolton… and then this happens?” he questioned.

Rushdie, 75, was propelled into the spotlight with his second novel “Midnight’s Children” in 1981, which won international praise and Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India, where he was born.

But his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” transformed his life when Khomeini issued a religious decree ordering his killing. In 1998, the government of Iran’s reformist president Mohammad Khatami assured Britain that Iran would not implement the fatwa. But Khamenei said in 2005 he still believed Rushdie was an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam.

Columnist at the LA Times Jean Guerrero dedicated a tweet to the writer, saying, “Three months ago I heard Salman Rushdie speak at the PEN World Voices Festival. He said: “A poem cannot stop a bullet. A novel can’t defuse a bomb … But we are not helpless … We can sing the truth & name the liars.” We must tell better stories than the tyrants.”

Famous American writer Stephen King also tweeted, saying ‘I hope Salman Rushdie is okay’.

With inputs from AFP.

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