International

Attack On Salman Rushdie: A Look At Events Since The Issuance Of The Fatwa

Months after being stabbed repeatedly as he prepared to give a lecture, Salman Rushdie is blind in his right eye, struggles to write and, at times, has 'frightening' nightmares.

Advertisement

All Snug A 1988 photograph of author Salman Rushdie after launching The Satanic Verses
info_icon

In his first interview since being stabbed, acclaimed author Salman Rushdie said he still has a feeling of gratitude. “Well, you know, I've been better,” he told The New Yorker's David Remnick during an interview published on Monday. “But, considering what happened, I'm not so bad."

Months after being stabbed repeatedly as he prepared to give a lecture, Salman Rushdie is blind in his right eye, struggles to write and, at times, has “frightening” nightmares.

A Booker Prize that catapulted him to the pantheon of global literary stalwarts to a fatwa by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini that forced him into hiding and years of death threats, Mumbai-born author Salman Rushdie was both idolised and demonised for a singular trait that defined his life and works — championing free speech.

Advertisement

As Rushdie’s long journey to recovery begins, we look at the timeline of all that followed since the issuance of a fatwa calling for his death after the publication of Rushdie's 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, which Khomeini deemed blasphemous to Islam.

Satanic Verses, 1988: 'Midnight’s Children', set against the backdrop of India’s journey from British rule to Independence and Partition, won him the prestigious Booker Prize in 1981, propelling him to literary stardom and global recognition. But years later, his other work ‘The Satanic Verses’, published in 1988 and a Booker Prize finalist, drew the wrath of Iran’s Supreme Leader.

Advertisement

February 1989: On February 12, 1989, a protest broke out in Islamabad, Pakistan and at least six people were killed following a fire exchange between police and gunmen. The crowd was protesting the sale of The Satanic Verses in the United States.

1989: On February 14, the Fatwa was issued by Khomeini calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie. Ten days following that, twelve people were killed in Mumbai after the police opened fire on them as a crowd of nearly 10,000 protestors marched towards the British High Commission. On May 27, the same year, pro-Iranian and pro-Iraqi factions clashed when some 30,000 Muslim demonstrators gathered outside the British parliament. A few months after that, on September 14, four bombs are planted outside bookshops in Britain owned by Penguin, publisher of The Satanic Verses.

ALSO READ: Salman Rushdie And The Iran Fatwa

1990s: Rushdie was forced into hiding for nearly a decade following the communal controversy over his book. 

1991: Two translators of the book were attacked in different parts of the world following the communal row. On July 3, Ettore Capriolo, Italian translator of The Satanic Verses, was beaten and attacked with a knife in his Milan flat by a man who said he was Iranian. On July 12, Japanese translator Hitoshi Igarashi was stabbed to death in Tokyo by an attacker who later fled. 

September 1995: After hiding and living under police protection for six years, on September 7, Rushdie appeared in public in London for the first time since the issuance of the fatwa. 

Advertisement

1997: On February 12, the Iranian revolutionary 15th Khordad Foundation increases the bounty on Rushdie's head to $US2.5 million ($3.5 million). 

1998: The year 1998 followed a series of events within Iran over a threat to Rushdie’s life. On September 22, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami says the Rushdie affair was "completely finished" and two days after that, the Iranian foreign minister informed Britain that no action would be taken against Rushdie. However, in the following months, Iranian clerics called on Muslims to kill Rushdie while several members of the Iranian Parliament stated that the death decree stood valid. 

1999: The book was banned in several countries, even before the fatwa was issued against Rushdie. Among the countries that banned the book was India, the land of his birth in which he was barred from entering for over a decade. The ban was eventually lifted in 1999, 11 years later. Other countries that banned the book were Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In the same year, on February 3,  the Indian government granted him a visa to visit his country of birth, triggering protests by Muslims.

ALSO READ: Long Before Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses', India Boiled Over Another 'Blasphemous' Book

Advertisement

June 15, 2007: Rushdie is awarded a knighthood by Britain's Queen Elizabeth for services to literature, prompting diplomatic protests from Pakistan and Iran and demonstrations in Pakistan and Malaysia.

2012-2016: The years in-between witnessed religious groups in Iran increasing the bounty for killing Rushdie. Meanwhile, on June 20, 2012, Rushdie won the annual PEN/Pinter Prize for his support for freedom of speech and his generous help to other writers. In October 2015, amid tight security at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Rushdie warned of new dangers to freedom of speech in the West. Additionally, the Iranian Ministry of Culture cancelled its national stand at the fair because of Rushdie's appearance.

Advertisement

June 1, 2022: Rushdie is made a Companion of Honour in the British Queen's annual birthday honours.

August 12, 2022: Rushdie was attacked by a 24-year-old man Hadi Matar from New Jersey on stage before he was to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. The attack on Rushdie —he was stabbed in the neck and abdomen and was put on a ventilator with a damaged liver— sent shock waves around the world, with world leaders and literary stalwarts saying they were appalled at the attack on the author who championed free speech and lived under the threat of assassination for nearly half his life.

October 2022: Salman Rushdie's agent said that the author has lost sight in one eye and used a hand as he was recovering from the attack. 

Advertisement

February 2023: In his first interview since the attack, Rushdie said that he felt lucky to have survived the last year’s brutal stabbing at a literary event in the US as he spoke for the first time about the “colossal attack”.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement