Two headlines stood out. One in an Israeli newspaper, ‘No one will any longer dare offend Islam: The 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie’. And the other in a New York daily, ‘NJ man, Hadi Matar, with sympathies toward Iranian government ID’d as suspect in Salman Rushdie stabbing’. The second emphasised the first. Not only will no one dare offend Islam, ‘but no one will also not dare link the killer with Islam’. Salman Rushdie managed to give the slip to the fatwa for 34 years. The lull of several years was comforting. Henceforth complacency will be identified with Salman Rushdie. Even ‘security’ had forgotten the fatwa. And then, the assassin came on stage, quite literally. The knife attack on Rushdie is a reminder that not all religions are forgiving.
Also, Iran’s once supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini can finally RIP. It was Khomeini’s February 14, 1989 fatwa that Salman Rushdie was battling, the extra-judicial death sentence handed out to him for writing “The Satanic Verses”, a piece of “magic realism” that allegedly “insulted Islam”. If anybody gets the feeling that Rushdie considered ‘Satanic verses’ his best work, that person wouldn’t be wrong. Rushie stuck to his verses in numerous safe-houses in London and elsewhere. And the assassins took their frustration on the translators of Satanic Verses, attacking two and killing the Japanese one. Khomeini had asked, “Muslims of the world rapidly to execute the author and the publishers of the book so that no one will any longer dare to offend the sacred values of Islam.” He lived for five more months and then went his way, leaving behind the message that any Muslim killed trying to kill Rushdie will “martyr” with a place in “paradise”. A USD 2.8 million bounty on Rushdie’s head sweetened the fatwa. The New York daily’s headline, ‘NJ man, Hadi Matar, with sympathies toward Iranian government ID’d as suspect in Salman Rushdie stabbing’ betrays the reluctance and fear to take the instructions of Islamists lightly. Even law enforcement agencies dare not “offend” the sensitivities of the followers of Islam, and dare not link Rushdie’s attacker to Islam. So, New Jersey resident Hadi Matar is just another “NJ man”, with “sympathies for the Iranian government”.
In India, a “terrorist” with links to Pakistan has been caught with a plan to execute Nupur Sharma in the “fidayeen style”. There is no doubt that he meant business. There’s a fatwa sentencing Nupur to death. Nupur is a victim of her own exciting presence, and the global exposure she got through a fact-checker of international standing. Salman Rushdie is proof that the hornet’s nest is not an exaggeration, and fatwas don’t go unanswered. Ironically, successive generations of lawmakers haven’t had the courage to take the scourge head-on, much less eradicate it from the face of the earth. Neanderthals had more sense than the current set of world denizens. Salman Rushdie was not the first to feel the brunt of hatred. And he wouldn’t be the last. Does not matter how many more times such headlines are repeated. Rushdie, says reports, “has bled from the neck and the liver, and he’ll lose an eye”. However, maybe he’s still not clear of death by stabbing. It is very important that Salman Rushdie should die of old age, and not by any fatwa. Freedom of expression is not something that can be assassinated on stage, and no religion should be allowed this veto.