Fatwa politics

Fatwa politics

Celebrated writer Salman Rushdie is known not only for literary excellence but also as a living symbol of the human spirit that abhors shackles.

The infamous fatwa issued against him by Ayatollah Khomeni for the ‘Satanic Verses’ has been withdrawn but there are still many who share the intolerant and shameful mindset behind that fatwa. It is to our discredit that some of them are in our own country. It is not only the obscurantist clerics of the Darul Uloom Deobandi who have now issued a fatwa against Rushdie attending the Jaipur literary festival but those who connive at implementing the injunction against him that are tainted by this medieval mindset. Freedom is indivisible and those who do not support it are against it.

Much of India’s politics is complicit in the opportunistic and hypocritical game of professing support for freedom of expression and in practice undermining Rushdie’s participation in the festival. The central and Rajasthan governments have exposed themselves by raising the bogey of security to scuttle the writer’s visit. They are constitutionally bound to ensure his security and to uphold freedom of expression. Rushdie has visited India many times in the past and even participated in the Jaipur festival once. He does not need a visa to visit the country as he is a person of Indian origin. The official excuses now being trotted out to sabotage his visit have arisen from political considerations relating to the assembly elections in UP. Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot was only taking a cue from the party’s leadership when he told the Centre of his dishonest worries over security. He even deviously tried to persuade the festival organisers to withdraw the invitation to Rushdie.

It  is a sign of the Congress’ moral and political cowardice and its governments that they are unable to take a stand and resist the temptation to pamper a tiny section of intolerant people. They should not have even taken the fatwa seriously and taken action against the organisation that offered a reward for throwing a shoe at Rushdie. There is no Muslim sentiment against Rushdie in the country. What goes by that is manufactured by uninformed clerics and vested interests. The political class and the government have developed a vested interest in them and lost their sense of responsibility and commitment to the basic norms of law and governance. Rushdie’s visit is a litmus test for them.

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