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Rushdie, Salman

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

    Rushdie, Salman

    1947 – Indian

    author

    Salman Rushdie is an Indian author who is perhaps best known for his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses. Many Muslims felt that the book's portrayal of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad was insulting and blasphemous. In response to its publication, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, sentencing Rushdie to death.

    Born in Bombay, India, Rushdie was raised in a wealthy and liberal Muslim family. He and his sisters grew up speaking both English and Urdu and were exposed to diverse cultural influences from an early age. Although Rushdie's parents were practicing Muslims, he characterizes his upbringing as absolutely secular. He also recalls that his parents permitted discussions on any and all subjects. As a boy, Rushdie was fascinated with comic books and movies, and by age ten he had decided that he wanted to become a writer.

    Rushdie attended high school in Great Britain. During his early teen years, he decided to adopt a nonreligious lifestyle. Rushdie earned a graduate degree in history from Cambridge University in 1968 . By that time, his parents had moved to Pakistan. Rushdie relocated to Karachi and began working in the Pakistani television industry, but he was frustrated by the government's censorship of the media, and he returned to Great Britain. During the day, he worked as an advertising copywriter, and at night and on the weekends, he wrote fiction. In 1975 Rushdie published his first book, Grimus. His first major critical success was his 1981 novel Midnight's Children, which won the prestigious Booker McConnell Prize.

    In 1988 Rushdie published The Satanic Verses, a novel that recounts the adventures of a character modeled on the Prophet Muhammad. Some parts of the book depict the character and his recording of the Qur'an in an unfavorable way. Many Muslims were outraged and offended by what they regarded as a parody of the Prophet, and they organized mass demonstrations to protest the novel. On February 14, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed a death sentence on Rushdie and those involved in the publication of The Satanic Verses. He also offered a $1.5 million reward for anyone who carried out the sentence. Rushdie went into hiding the next day.

    Salman Rushdie remained in hiding for several years, fearing for his life and frequently on the move. Although the strain of this experience ended his marriage, he continued to write. He published essays, short stories, and additional novels. The threats to his life have been reduced, and in the late 1990s, Rushdie moved to New York City. See also Fatwa; Khomeini, Ruhollah al-Musavi; Literature.

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