I Knew they would get me Someday : Salman Rushdie

I knew they would get me some day. There exist no escape routes. All roads to hell are guarded well by the jihadis. There is no way I could have befuddled this brigade of blind believers, and reached hell in a single piece, without them getting an opportunity to serve their Faith. The fatwa was issued thirty-four years back. The perpetrator, God bless his soul, is twenty-four. The death cult means serious business. ‘Letting go’ is not their style. Every Faithful across the world, extremist or modern, has wanted me dead since September 28th, 1988. That was the day when Khushwant Singh as the Consulting Editor of Penguin India had declared that he found the book to be too offensive to be published in India. It was just a matter of one Soldier of God getting lucky. How have I survived for this long has been a matter of personal surprise.

One got to read in the papers that certain fatwas, especially the one issued by the Iranian Government, were withdrawn. That is pure hogwash, mere tactical retreat, meant to hoodwink the West, and catch the security apparatus off-guard. Fatwas are not financial instruments, rather divine directions. A Faithful is expected to obey a fatwa in its letter and spirit. You cannot take back a divine injunction. For the sake of image-building one can practice Al-Takiya, and make a show of withdrawing the order, but make no mistake, the command shall eternally stand. It is up to the daredevil believers, Soldiers of Gods, Hunters of Fortune, to obey the fatwa, and later encash the promised rewards in this world, and the next.

Who has not heard of the joys of the Jannat? Who does not wish to partake of the sensual pleasures offered by the firm-breasted Hoors? I am not naïve. I knew it was a matter of time. I knew I was a goner since the day the blasphemous idea entered my head. I wrote it nevertheless. My father had taken the surname Rushdie after Ibn Rush, the jurist. I had to make my Abbu proud. Allegory was the way to interpret Islam. Maybe I was vain, but I was young and desperate for more influence than a mere successful author could ever wield. I would not blame that darbari, Khushwant, for pointing fingers at my book, nor Rajiv Gandhi for banning it. I certainly do not hold any grudges against Rafique Zakaria for publishing that vainglorious ‘open letter’. What could Penguin India have done? Of course, even the Ayatollah was not out of line in issuing the fatwa. His position dictated his response. In the event, he raised my profile.

I am not deluded. I was born in the Faith. Did I not apologize in January 1989? Did I not clarify that I had not set out to commit blasphemy? I had even argued that the prophet in my book was not the Holy Prophet of Islam, PBUH. Or, that even the Holy Prophet is accepted in the Islamic theology as a human, and hence not above failings. At the same time, am I not aware of how the minds of the Faithful work –

Be always willing to take offense.

Be always vigilant to call out offenders.

 Be always eager to take up the challenges thrown at the Faith by the alleged blasphemes.

Always be on the lookout for new opportunities to serve the Faith by avenging any slight or insult.

The flight to the Jannat stands on the tarmac, ever in the scrambling mode. It shall leave with even a single passenger on its board. The trick is to get the boarding pass issued. Who would let go of such a tempting offer?

Do not think that this is the first attack, or that Hadi Matter has accidently succeeded. They have been trying to make short work of me since the day the Verses achieved infamy. They have troubled the security every single day. Like mosquitoes do. Always at it! No fuckin’ dull day around these jihadis. Ultimately, even the repellent gets bored of the monotony of incessant attempts at infiltration and murder. I must thank all those defenders who have protected me for over three decades.

Many of my translators have not been so lucky. The Japanese one was found stabbed in a hotel, must have been halal’ed at leisure. The Italian translator was also stabbed, but escaped with injuries on his neck and limbs. The publisher of the Norwegian translation was shot thrice outside his home, but even he managed to survive! The Turkish translator was the intended target of a mob of arsonists who burned down the hotel in which he was staying. Forty people lost their lives, but the ‘heretic’ survived. Such hullabaloo over a mere book! It actually proves the point how dangerous books can be, a case in the point being the Book itself!

Having lived in India, Britain, Pakistan and the US, I still feel grateful towards the Great Indian Liberal Government of 1988 for being the first country to ban the Satanic Verses. In a way, Rajiv Gandhi and Chidambaram (MOS, Home) informed the world that my work was too blasphemous even for a modern, secular democracy to tolerate. They did not grant me visa to visit India between 1988 and 1999. I suspect Vajpayee and Advani allowed me to return only so that I could pour more venom upon the Faith, and lampoon the Faithful. I cheered the fall of the Hindu Right, and hailed the return of the liberal-left. Yet the Ecosystem did not stand by me when I was kicked out of the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Just desserts, I would say. Comeuppance, you might add. Everything has contributed to the Rushdie legend. I am more widely known and followed than my writings warrant.  What do I care if I have blasphemed, and then apologized, got banned or stabbed, married or divorced, been quoted or misquoted,  knighted or killed, criticized or celebrated – it is all a game, and I have played it well.

Do not waste your sympathy and tears upon me. I might die, or survive with a single eye, but forever shall remain my infamy and the name- Rushdie.

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