Salman Rushdie Attacked: A Look at Past Controversies Involving the Author

Indian-origin British author Salman Rushdie was attacked ahead of a lecture in western New York on 12 August.

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Indian-origin British author Salman Rushdie was attacked ahead of a lecture in western New York on Friday, 12 August.

Rushdie's suspected assailant has been taken into custody. Even as the New York Police investigates the attack, here is a look at the controversies that have involved the author in the past.


The 'Satanic Verses' Controversy

The work that Rushdie is best known for is also the novel that led to death threats being issued against him.

In 1988, he published his critically acclaimed The Satanic Verses, which went on to win him the Whitbread Award that year. However, it also went on to get banned in several nations for the way he wrote about Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

The then leader of Iran, late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death and the killing of his publishers for insulting Prophet Muhammad. The author, who went into hiding for nearly 10 years following the controversy, was accused of misusing his freedom of speech.

While Rushdie had managed to escape physical harm so far, the Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses, Hitoshi Igarashi, was stabbed to death in 1991; the book's Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was seriously injured in a stabbing in the same year, and Norway publisher William Nygaard was shot three times in an attempted assassination in 1993 but he survived.

The book has remained banned in several nations around the world, with India banning it before Iran. In 2015, Congress leader P Chidambaram accepted that banning the book had been "wrong."

His second novel, Midnight's Children (1981), won the Booker Prize in 1981 and was deemed to be "the best novel of all winners" on two occasions.


Not an Ideal Husband

The world renowned author has been married four times and all of the marriages ended in divorce. His last marriage was to Indian-American model and author Padma Lakshmi. The couple split after three years of marriage in 2007.

In her memoir published in 2016, Lakshmi wrote about how the author was sexually needy and not an understanding husband. She said that he also at one point called Lakshmi a “bad investment."

After all these years, Rushdie’s take on marriage is not any rosier than that of Lakshmi’s.

"It’s strange, given that I’ve been married four times, but I actually don’t think marriage is necessary... girls like it, especially if they’ve never been married before – it’s the dress. Girls want a wedding, they don’t want a marriage. If only you could have weddings without marriages," Lakshmi had said.

Love, Loss and the Nobel

Lakshmi also claimed that her relationship with Rushdie had been marred by jealousy. When she appeared on the cover of Newsweek, she said that Rushdie had sourly exclaimed:

The only time Newsweek put me on their cover was when someone was trying to put a bullet in my head.

Lakshmi had also gone on to say that when the Nobel winners were announced each year and Rushdie’s name wasn’t included, he would need a lot of consoling.

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Topics:  New York   Salman Rushdie 

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