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'Blasphemer Rushdie will be welcomed with shoes in India'

Last updated on: January 20, 2012 11:41 IST

'Blasphemer Rushdie will be welcomed with shoes in India'

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Vicky Nanjappa

Will world renowned author Salman Rushdie come to India for the Jaipur Literary Festival? That is the question on everyone's mind. There has been no confirmation from Rushdie himself so far and the festival organisers maintain that the invitation to the writer has not been cancelled.

However, several Muslims organisations across the country, who have been hurt by some of his writings, say they would welcome him with brick bats and shoes if at all he visits India.

Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, president, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, who is also the chief editor of The Milli Gazette,  says that  if a person can cross all limits of decency only to sell his writing, he should be prepared for the kind of reaction shown by Muslims ever since his novel, The Satanic Verses, was published three decades ago.

In an interview with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Dr Khan says people will denounce Rushdie and hurl shoes at him if they find him. "The blasphemer" should be ready for such a reception, he adds.

What do you make of the controversy surrounding the visit of Salman Rushdie to India?

Salman Rushdie, a British citizen, hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims around the world by writing Satanic Verses, which in a nutshell tries to claim that the Holy Quran is not divine and revealed.

If a person can cross all limits of decency only to sell his writing, he should be prepared for the kind of reaction shown by Muslims ever since this blasphemous novel was published three decades ago.

He has not ever shown remorse; rather he has said that he should have been more forthcoming and critical in his writing and depiction of characters. As such, it is very natural that people who were hurt will protest whenever an opportunity presents itself. And what best opportunity than when a foreigner visits a country where millions dislike what he said and wrote.

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Image: No clarity yet over author Salman Rushdie's visit to the Jaipur Literary Festival which began on Friday


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'No violence has been threatened and no violence is expected'

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There is a section of Muslim population which is threatening action if he were to visit India. Do you subscribe to their views?

I think the vast majority of Muslim opinion in India is against this visit by a foreigner. People have limited themselves to denouncing the visit, asking the Government of India not to allow him to visit, and the most anyone has gone to, is to say that he will pay Rs 1 lakh to anyone throwing a shoe at this detested man. No violence has been threatened and no violence is expected.

By preventing Rushdie from coming down to India, do you feel that people are being intolerant?

This reaction may look intolerant to 'liberals' and 'Westernised' people but not to people who are deeply religious, be they Hindus or Muslims. The recent reaction to the ban of Bhagvad Gita in Siberia is an indication of what happens when religious feelings of anyone are hurt.

If he were to apologise for his writings against Islam, do you think he would be forgiven and welcomed in India?

If Rushdie apologises and withdraws his blasphemous writing, the issue will be closed for Muslims all over the world, not only in India.


Image: Over 260 authors from across the globe will attend the Jaipur Literary Festival

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'Taslima Nasreen is a most vulgar writer'

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In the past Taslima Nasreen was attacked by workers of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen in Hyderabad. Do you feel that was justified?

Tasleema is a class by herself -- a most vulgar writer. She too is a foreigner and has cases against her in her homeland Bangladesh.

She is a fugitive from law. She should return to her country, now ruled by very secular people, and face the courts. In any case, she has the nationality of a European country and should reside there. She will get slippers and shoes wherever she is seen in India. It is unfortunate that our government spends so much of our money to protect an unwanted foreigner on our soil.

It is strange that in a democracy the opinion of million of people has no meaning in the face of some people's liking of a foreigner who has no automatic right to be in our country.

Do you think that Rushdie will face the same wrath if he were to visit India?

People will denounce Rushdie and hurl shoes at him if they find him. That's all. The blasphemer should be ready for such reception.

The government has warned that he could be a victim of an attack if he were to visit India. Does this sound like surrender?

Every government has to take popular sentiments into consideration. This is the right answer when millions of your compatriots feel a particular way about a foreigner who does not enjoy the rights and duties enshrined in our Constitution. A foreigner is a guest at the sufferance of the government and people of India.


Image: Noted Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen


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'Matters of blasphemy not issues of debate'

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With Uttar Pradesh elections round the corner and the Muslim vote making a whale of a difference, will political parties use the Rushdie issue?

Political parties always use and misuse issues for their own benefit. Muslims have no control over their or the media's behaviour.

Instead of threatening Rushdie, would you think its best to have an open debate with the man himself on a public platform regarding his writings?

The issue of blasphemy and abuse is not an issue of debate. We do have debates where issues are debatable and each side is within limits of decency.

Finally, do you feel way too much is being made out of the Rushdie issue? Doesn't a person have the right to express his opinion?

Everyone has a right to express his opinion but this right has to be exercised within limits. If he simply says 'I do not believe in the Quran or that the Quran is fake', no one will join issues with him.

Satanic Verses is not such a thing -- it is a clear case of blasphemy, abuse and utter denigration of things and personalities held sacred by millions of people in our own country.


Image: The cover of Rushdie's controversial novel 'Satanic Verses'

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