The Rushdie affair

  • Created by: henco
  • Created on: 04-05-17 21:49

What was it?

The Rushdie affair ws the reaction of some Muslims to the publication of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie in 1988, which culminated in 1989 with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issuing a fatwa for Rushdie's death.

The West v. Islam

The affair was seen as a battle between the Western and Muslim worlds. While the West was fighting for its core value of freedom of expression (that no one should be killed or threatened for what they wrote or said), the Muslim world argued that no one should be allowed to disparage the Prophet Muhammad.

The Satanic Verses' controversies

The actual Satanic verses refers to the legend that several Quranic verses recited by Muhamma dwere actually given to him by the devil; among other things, these verses permitted prayer to multiple pre-Islamic goddesses, despite shirk (the practice of idolatry or polytheism) being a sin in Islam.

Other issues Muslims had with the book itself included:

  • The prophet character being named Mahound (a derogatory name for Muhammad)
  • A Mecca-esque city being named Jahilia (an concept used to denote pre-Islamic Arabia)
  • A film star character being named Jibril (the Arabic name of the angel Gabriel)
  • The devil being named Saladin (a Muslim hero)
  • A fantatical leader of a fatal pilgrimage being named Aysha (the name of one of Muhammad's wives)
  • Prostitutes at Jahilia's brothel sharing names with the Mothers of Believers (Muhammad's wives)
  • Abraham (a prophet) being described as a "*******" for his treatment of Hagar and Ishmael

Controversy timeline

October 1988: banned in India

November 1988: banned in Bangladesh, Sudan and South Africa

December 1988: banned in Sri Lanka

January 1989: public book burning occurs in the UK

March 1989: banned in Kenya, Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia and Singapore

June 1989: banned in Venezuela

Bombs were sent to multiple bookshops, with the HQ of The Riverdale Press in New York, USA was destroyed after they published an editorial defending the right to read the book. Ultimately, a third of bookshops in the USA refused to sell the book.


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