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Who is Salman Rushdie? | CTV News

Indian-born novelist Salman Rushdie, author of the both praised and criticized “The Satanic Verses,” remains in hospital after being stabbed at an appearance at the Chautauqua Institution in New York on Friday.

His attacker, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, caused severe damage to Rushdie’s liver and his agent said he is likely to lose an eye over suffering nerve damage.

The 75-year-old has faced decades of death threats, including a government-issued bounty in Iran of US$3 million calling for his execution over his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses.”


Salman Rushdie is an award-winning author of thirteen novels, often depicting stories in the style of magic realism. Rushdie moved to England at the age of 14 and has since received multiple global literary awards, including Britain’s Booker Prize award in 1981 for his novel “Midnight’s Children.” Additionally, in 2007, Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his literary contributions.


In 1988, his novel “The Satanic Verses” came under scrutiny from the Muslim community as many considered it to be blasphemous for the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. According to the book’s synopsis, the first act of the story follows “two Indian actors of opposing sensibilities fall to earth, transformed into living symbols of what is angelic and evil” after a terrorist bombing of a London-bound jet.

Shortly after being published, the book was burned and banned in several Muslim countries including India, Pakistan and Iran; following major protests across the world leaving 45 people dead including 12 in the author’s hometown of Mumbai.

In 1989, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, a religious ruling calling for the execution of Rushdie and the publishers of the book; which included a bounty of US$3 million. Amid the fatwa, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed and killed in 1991 and an Italian translator was also stabbed but survived. William Nygaard, the publisher of the book, was also shot three times in 1993 but he also managed to survive the assassination attempt.


While Iran’s Khomeini died the same year the fatwa was issued, the current leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has not rescinded it, leaving the ruling in effect. Rushdie was given protection by the British government, which included round-the-clock security as he went into hiding for nearly a decade while living under the pseudonym Joseph Anton.

In a visit to Columbia University in 1991, Rushdie spoke about freedom of speech and explained how he was sorry for offending people but does not regret writing the novel.

“I have never disowned ‘The Satanic Verses,’ nor regretted writing it. I said I was sorry to have offended people, because I had not set out to do so, and so I am,” Rushdie said in an excerpt of his speech published by the New York Times.

In 1998 Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s foreign minister said the government does not support the bounty, allowing Rushdie to slowly emerge from hiding even though he continued to face threats to his life.

In his 2012 memoir titled “Joseph Anton” Rushdie wrote about living through the fatwa and described defeating terrorism by “not being afraid.”

With files from The Associated Press. 

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