Salman Rushdie, sentenced to death by Iran, stabbed in the neck

The writer of Indian origin has been threatened by the Ayatollahs' regime for decades after publishing 'The Satanic Verses'

Domenico Chiappe

Salman Rushdie has been on death row for decades in Iran on charges of blasphemy. This Friday, dressed in white to participate in a literary act near the city of New York, he was wounded with a knife in the neck.

According to the information provided by the Police, when Rushdie was about to speak, he was stabbed in the neck by an assailant who jumped on stage by surprise. His health status is currently unknown and the attacker, who has not been identified, has been arrested.

Known worldwide as a writer harassed by a fatwa issued by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini in 1988, due to his disrespectful treatment of the Muslim religion, Salman Rushdie (Bombai, India, 1947) was already cultivating a literature that brought together a fantastic realist genre with strong tints and themes of India, the social denunciation mixed with religious politics, the exploration of family sagas such as typically Western novels and a sometimes experimental style in language although with clear plots.

Before 'Versos satanicos', which earned him a death threat that kept him isolated and protected for a decade, he made his debut with the magnificent and hyperbolic work 'The children of midnight', with which he won several awards (for example, the Booker, 1981) and translations.

Books 'Shame' and 'The Last Sigh of the Moor' followed, also awarded Anglo-Saxon prizes. He has practiced the story and the journalistic chronicle, such as a trip he made to Nicaragua, as soon as the Sandinista revolution had triumphed, a cause with which he sympathized. From that experience he wrote 'The smile of the jaguar'. Already with international fame, he has continued his literary career, always defending that freedom that he himself lost in the whole of his work.

'Satanic Verses' follows the strategy of his stories prior to its publication, but its background is also found in later works against Islamic fundamentalism. The most representative is 'Fury', which he wrote after the 9/11 attacks in the United States, where he already lived, and which was published that same year, 2001. The Government of Iran ended up distancing itself from Khomeini's 'fatwa', but, in In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the reward for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.

Khomeini's condemnation

On February 14, 1989, a BBC journalist dialed the phone at Rushdie's home in London. It was interesting to know what the writer thought about the "fatwa" that Khomeini, the Iranian supreme leader, had just launched against him, and in which he urged all Muslims in the world to execute the author of 'The Satanic Verses', a work that the Ayatollah considered it blasphemous against Islam. It wasn't just Rushdie to kill. Also to all the editorial "accomplices" who dared to spread the heretical message. Khomeini offered a juicy reward: if someone died in the attempt, he would join Muhammad directly in paradise as a martyr, with their corresponding houris (virgin women). In case that didn't sound too convincing, there was also a hefty cash reward.

Since then, Rushdie has kept his pen sharp against extremism in his regular columns, over which 'The New York Post' and 'The New Yorker' fight. Also on Twitter and Facebook, where he condemned the brutal attack against "Charlie Hebdo" and defended freedom of expression: "Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire and yes, our disrespect without fear." He even now dares to answer Islamic radicals like the ones who murdered nine magazine employees, a visitor and two policemen. Almost always with a good dose of humor, which he continues to reveal as one of the best weapons against the threats of "jihad". He demonstrated it at a party for Article 19, an international anti-censorship lobby group: "Knowing how tight your pockets are," he told them, "I appreciate you not trying to collect the bounty."

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