20 Years Later: Salmon Rushdie’s 1989 “Fatwah” in Retrospect

Twenty years ago, in 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeni declared a “fatwah” (a death sentence) on the British author Salmon Rushdie (for the publication of his novel, The Satanic Verses).

The Guardian has an excellent retrospective article on the whole mad and primitive medieval affair, recalling the stabbings of translators and writers that followed the “fatwah,” the cowardly statements of various authors at the time (Germaine Greer being among them), and Rushdie’s struggles with having to live in hiding.

The essay also explores writers, artists, and book publishers’s subsequent self-censorship prompted by the original Rushdie incident, and the shadow that contemporary fundamentalist Islam casts over the arts—and freedom of speech generally—today.

It is a horrific and sobering article, and can be read here.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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