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McEwan helped Rushdie defy death fatwa

February 16, 2009

Booker Prize-winning British author Ian McEwan, a close friend of Salman Rushdie [Images], had offered the latter a place to hide when a death decree was issued against the controversial Indian-origin author by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

A detailed profile of the Atonement author in the New Yorker reveals that for a few days following the death sentence issued by Khomeini in February 1989, Rushdie had taken refuge at McEwan's cottage in Cotswolds, in central England [Images].

He soon left for another destination. This was the beginning of Rushdie's long self-imposed exile, when he remained underground for long periods of time.

Recalling the days he spent in hiding with Rushdie, McEwan says, "I'll never forget -- the next morning we got up early. He had to move on. We stood at the kitchen counter making toast and coffee, listening to the eight o'clock BBC news. He was standing right by my side and he was the lead item on the news. Hezbollah had put its sagacity and weight behind the project to kill him."

Incidentally, McEwan, an avowed atheist, has often been criticised for his outspoken comments against Islamic fundamentalism as well as certain aspects of Christianity.

Image: Salman Rushdie (left) with Ian McEwan

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