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The first fatwa against the “Satanic Verses” did not come from Khomeini!

14 August 2022 Expertises   32036  

Ian Hamel

In September 1988, Jean-Claude Buhrer, a senior reporter for Le Monde, was travelling in India when the writer Salman Rushdie published his novel “The Satanic Verses”. “The reaction was immediate from the Shiites in India. They immediately launched a fatwa against Salman Rushdie, calling for his death,” recalls the journalist. Jean-Claude Buhrer. He immediately called his newspaper… which declined his offer of an article. Presumably, the importance of the subject escaped the attention of the famous Parisian daily newspaper.

India was the first country to ban “The Satanic Verses”, well before the predominantly Muslim countries of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Qatar. It was only in February 1989, five months later, that Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian revolution, denounced Salman Rushdie’s book as “blasphemous” against Islam, accused him of “apostasy”, issued a fatwa against him, and sentenced him to death. For Ayatollah Khomeini, it is the responsibility of every Muslim to execute the writer. Since then, a reward of more than three million dollars has been promised for anyone who does so.

Jean-Claude Buhrer, who now lives in Lausanne, is a specialist in both Latin America and Asia. His books include “Allende, un itinéraire sans detours” (1974), “Aung San Suu Kyi. Un espoir foudroyé”, published in 2004, and “Tibet, tibétains, un peuple, un regard” (2010), written with his wife, Claude B. Levenson, now deceased.

Born in Bombay in 1947, at the time of India’s independence, into a secular Muslim family, Salman Rushdie, who writes mainly in English, was already a renowned writer in 1988, at the time of the publication of “The Satanic Verses”. So he never wanted – as some mischievous minds imply – to carry out a communication operation to make the buzz through this book. We owe him in particular “The Midnight Children”, published seven years earlier, in 1981, which won the prestigious Booker Prize.