Saturday 23 February 2019
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business-standard - 12 days ago

Thirty years after Rushdie fatwa, blasphemy still a potent weapon

Thirty years after Iran called for the killing of Salman Rushdie, the British novelist remains a figure of hate for extremists across the Muslim world, and though the level of outrage has dropped, the issue of blasphemy is as incendiary as ever. Rushdie s novel The Satanic Verses triggered mass protests from London to Islamabad and, analysts say, closed down the space for debate around Islam in a way that still resonates today. Iran s spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued the fatwa calling for Rushdie s murder on February 14, 1989. A day earlier thousands of protesters enraged by the novel s publication had attacked the American Cultural Centre in Islamabad. Five people were killed in the ensuing clashes with police. Pakistani journalist Shahid ur Rehman told AFP he was among the first to arrive on the scene that day, and watched as men stormed the roof of the centre and pulled down its American flag while police fired tear gas, then live bullets. Rehman said the

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