— The Erimtan Angle —

The Indian writer, journalist, and academic Amitava Kumar recently wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education of his experience reading excerpts from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses at the Jaipur Literature Festival: the ‘organizers of the Jaipur Literature Festival were asked to hand over to the police the videotape of a reading from a novel last month. The tape will show the writer Hari Kunzru and me reading from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, a book banned in India since its publication in 1988. We were protesting Rushdie’s absence from the festival. He had been forced to withdraw after extremist Muslim groups expressed displeasure, and, more urgently, when intelligence reports revealed that hired assassins from Mumbai were on their way to kill the writer. (Those reports were later revealed to be fiction. Cops as magical realists.) On the tape, the police will have seen that, during our reading, I told the audience that just before the start of the protests in Tahrir Square last year, the Google executive-turned-cyber-activist Wael Ghonim had entered Egypt with a message ready on his computer. It said, “I am now being arrested at Cairo airport.” All he needed to do was press Send. I joked that perhaps Hari ought to do something similar. Within minutes of my saying this, the festival’s producer arrived and asked me to stop reading. I didn’t. When the reading was over and we came out, a bank of television cameras was trained on us. A Hindi reporter asked me, “Aren’t you guilty of provoking religious violence?” And then, a little later, the police were there, informing us that we had broken the law. I was staggered at the speed at which all of this happened. We were told that the tweets we had sent immediately before the reading, announcing our plans to read from the banned novel, had gone viral. Here was proof that we were living in the age of social media, and that, as in Egypt or Tunisia, public protest was being conveyed through Twitter. A lot had changed in the 23 years since the book was banned in India’.[1]

And in the absence of a clip of the above cited lecture, here is a ‘clip [from]. . .  “Faith & Reason” on PBS. Excerpt was read at the PEN American Center on April 26, 2006’: Rushdie himself reading the offending lines.

The whole Satanic Verses affair dates back to Valentine’s Day 1989, and was only somewhat resolved at the end of the century.

The Satanic Verses Affair

This film looks back on the extraordinary events which followed the publication of the book and the ten year campaign to get the fatwa lifted. Interviews with Rushdie’s friends and family and testimony from leaders of Britain’s Muslim community and the Government reveal the inside story of the affair. Rushdie himself was forced into hiding for nearly ten years.

 


[1] Amitava Kumar, “Salman Rushdie and Me” The Chronicle of Higher Education (19 February 2012). http://chronicle.com/article/Salman-RushdieMe/130796/.

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