When the Ayatollah Khomeini's death sentence against Salman Rushdie was announced on Valentine's Day of 1989, it instantly plunged Rushdie into at least four different battles. He was fighting for his life, of course, an unrelentingly anxious campaign to stay hidden from Muslim extremists which went on long after his cause made headlines. Second, he was fighting to propagate his own ideas about a secular Muslim culture, to which was now added the cause of free speech, amidst intense pressure to apologize for The Satanic Verses
and back down. Third, he clashed with the British government, who never officially denounced the fatwa
and only protected him grudgingly, believing that he was a troublemaker who was costing enormous amounts of money despite never having done the nation a service. Finally, he struggled mightily to maintain the creative space to continue...
Beyond the Book
Before there was the fatwa
, there were protests, bans, and deaths. The first inkling of controversy came just before the book's publication, when an Indian journalist broke the publishing embargo on writing about a book before it is available for sale. Madhu Jain's article, "An Unequivocal Attack on Religious Fundamentalism," was published in the magazine India Today
in September 1988, and three weeks later The Satanic Verses
was banned in India, Rushdie's homeland. Three days after that, he received his first death threat. Jain has recently responded to Rushdie's accusation that her review was "the match that lit the fire."
Not long after being passed over for the Booker Prize that fall, which went to Peter Carey's Oscar and...