Islamic leaders in India are trying to prevent author Salman Rushdie from entering the country for a literature festival.
Rushdie, who was famously given a fatwa sentence by Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses in 1998, is scheduled to speak at an event in the northern city of Jaipur this month, but the influential Darul Uloom Deoband seminary has asked the government to take away his visa.
Referring to Rushdie as “the man whose blasphemous writings have hurt the sentiments of Muslims all over the world, Maulana Qasim Nomani, the head of the Islamic school, insisted that he must not be allowed to set foot on Indian soil.”
I call upon the Muslim organizations of the country to mount pressure on the center to withdraw the visa and prevent him visiting India where [tens of millions] community members still feel hurt owing to the anti-Islamic remarks in his writings The Muslims cannot pardon him at any cost, Nomani added.
The government has refused to bar Rushdie's entry, and the writer, who was born in Mumbai, was quick to point out on Twitter that for the record, I don't need a visa.
The Darul Uloom seminary and the Deobandi Islamic movement have millions of followers around the world and India was one of the countries that banned The Satanic Verses after its publication. The fatwa -- or death sentence -- against Rushie was lifted in 1998, but he is still a controversial and blasphemous figure for many Muslims.
“Whenever Rushdie has come here, we have always condemned it,” seminary deputy vice chancellor Maulana Abdul Khaliq told Agnce France Presse.
“People who admire him can go and find him abroad.”
Even members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party in the state of Uttar Pradesh where the school is located, has suggested that Rushie should not be allowed at the festival, because he will cause tensions between communities as the state prepares for elections.
“India is a country where the sentiments of each community and caste are respected,” Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali echoed to Reuters. “And therefore such a man should not be permitted to come to the country.”
Jaipur Literature Festival co-director William Dalrymple has apologized to Rushdie.
He's one of the greatest artists India has created, one of the greatest figures to come out of the Indian Muslim community and people should be proud of what he's achieved, he said.