Sir Salman Rushdie: Who is he, what is he known for and what happened to him?

Sir Salman Rushdie has lost his home, freedom, marriage and peace of mind due to his controversial posts.

The 75-year-old British-Indian author whose writings led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s was stabbed on stage in New York state on Friday, of unknown status. evident in the hospital.

The incident is not the first time his life has been threatened.

The former ruler of Iran Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced him to death in February 1989 for “blasphemy” Satanic verses, which reproduce the Koran’s retelling of the prophecies of Mohammed, the founder of established Islam.

Trapped tight in the web of his own handwriting and with a bounty of more than £1 million on his head, Sir Salman Rushdie has become a symbol of the writer’s freedom and the fragility of the profession in the era. prisoner of conscience.

The book generates anger and division, raising complex, emotional questions about religion and racial harmony, law, politics and diplomacy, literary freedom and morality.


A protest in London’s Park Lane against the publication of Salman Rushdie’s controversial book, Verses of Satan in 1989 (PA)

Few men have suffered denigration and threats such as the self-described “mischievous icon,” whose critics have incited violence across the Muslim world and in Britain, burning books and arson.

Sir Salman espouses peace and progress by liberating from fixed ideas, but, in defying Koranic tradition, the literary lion has become Islam’s number one public enemy.

Under Islamic law, he was found guilty of creating “fascism” or disrupting public order in a land belonging to the divine.

Ayatollah’s justification for his death sentence, or fatwa, was riots and dozens of deaths in India and Pakistan following press condemnation of the book, published in 1988.

Satanic verses have been banned in 45 Muslim countries, with hundreds of Muslims in the UK endorsing the death penalty.

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The author is regularly moved from house to house by Special Branch officers trying to stay one step ahead of what would be the assassins – with 56 moves in just the first three months.

Sir Salman and independent India were born weeks apart in 1947.

His Muslim grandfather built a “leather” manufacturing business, but India’s independence led to the creation of a separate Muslim state in Pakistan. Sir Salman is a false religion in the wrong country.


Sir Salman Rushdie (Julien Behal / PA)

Born a nominal Muslim, he was never educated in Islam, instead converting to Rugby at the age of 13.

Like his father, he went to King’s College, Cambridge, where he read history and appeared as “a little lightbulb in The Footlights” alongside Clive James and Germaine Greer.

The young graduate tried his hand at fringe theater before moving into advertising. He dreams of the “naughty but nice” tagline for whipped cream and the bubble’s “delicious” pun for the Aero chocolate.

He began his writing career in the early 1970s with two unsuccessful books, before Midnight Children, about the birth of India, which won the Booker Prize in 1981 and brought him fame. language worldwide.

Shame, based on the intricacies of Pakistani politics, followed two years later, claiming his reputation as the founder of a new genre, Anglo-Indian “magical realism”, with a school of imitating his own style.

His 11-year marriage to Clarissa Luard, with whom he had a son, Zafar, ended in divorce in 1987.

At 41, he was the darling of the London and New York literary establishment, only sought after by international publishers, when Viking Penguin prepaid £500,000 for his next book, The Satanic Verses.


Sir Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses (Adam Butler/PA)

The novel is an allegory about contemporary Britain and India and the conflict between good and evil, portrayed by two survivors of a jet plane exploding at 30,000ft, who who found themselves transformed, one into the Angel Gabriel and the other into the Devil.

On February 14, 1989, the BBC phoned his Islington home with an announcement that Ayatollah Khomeini had sentenced him, and all those intentionally involved in the publication, to death.

He locked and closed the house, attended a memorial service for writer Bruce Chatwin, then disappeared from the world with his second wife, American writer Marianne Wiggins.

After five months in exile together, Ms. Wiggins stepped out, unable to withstand the tight security.

Penguin has received repeated threats against staff and spends £2m a year securing its premises after stores burned in Chelsea and York.

In March 1989, two men hunting Rushdie and traveling with forged Moroccan passports were stopped at Santander in Spain en route to Plymouth.

Five months later, a man blew himself up in a hotel room in Paddington while making a bomb with military explosives. A French newspaper wrote the next day that he died “preparing an attack on the apostate SR”.

On Christmas Eve 1990, the author announced that he regretted writing The Satanic Verses, promised to stop publishing the paperback, and said he had accepted Islam – statements he later said he wished he had. i have never done.

The appeasement was unsuccessful. Iran responded by extending his death sentence and doubling the reward for his murder.

In September 1998, that threat seemed to have diminished dramatically when Iran definitively separated itself from the fatwa and the associated bounty.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told then-Secretary of State Robin Cook in New York that his government had “no intention” to harm Sir Salman and that his government did not support a bounty offered by an Iranian charity. given.

Sir Salman, 51 at the time, acknowledged that there was still a level of threat.

However, he stressed that he has no regrets about the book, adding: “There is no way the book has been withdrawn. We did not fight this battle for freedom of speech to give in at the last moment.”


Sir Salman Rushdie and his ex-wife Elizabeth in 2008 (Johnny Green/PA)

Praising his new-found freedom, he took the opportunity to express his gratitude to his wife, Elizabeth, whom he describes as a “heroine”.

He told how Elizabeth, whom he had recently married, shared with him eight and a half of nine and a half years of trials.

“Without her, I wouldn’t have survived this,” he said.

They have a son named Milan, born in 1997.

In 2000, Sir Salman moved to Manhattan in New York, and four years later he divorced Elizabeth and married his fourth and final wife Padma Lakshmi, an Indian-American actress and model. , with whom he stayed until July 2007.

His return to public life has seen him publish novels such as Fury, The Moor’s Last Sigh and Shalimar The Clown, which have long been rated for Booker.

He also appeared in the 2001 hit film Bridget Jones’s Diary.


Sir Salman Rushdie after being knighted by the Queen in 2008 (John Stillwell/PA)

He was knighted in 2008 for his services to literature, an honor he was “emotional and humbling” to receive.

However, the announcement sparked outrage in several Muslim countries, leading to widespread protests.

In 2022, he was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honor as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honors.

He said it was “a great surprise and delight”, describing the “privilege” of being included in “such an illustrious company”.

Later that year, as he was preparing to give a presentation at the Chautauqua Institute, he was attacked by a man who stormed the stage.

Sir Salman suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck and was airlifted to hospital by helicopter where his condition remained unclear, state police said.

Photos from the Associated Press show him lying on his back, legs in the air and first responders crouching over him. Sir Salman Rushdie: Who is he, what is he known for and what happened to him?

Fry Electronics Team

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