Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, vice chancellor of the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband, is understandably afraid of Salman Rus-hdie, the heretic-novelist. And if he’s not afraid of Mr Rushdie, he is afraid of what the latter’s visit is likely to provoke in the hearts of Muslims in India. While the source of his fear makes for a heady round of theological debate by itself, one can imagine Mr Nomani’s concerns being bona fide. So what if his concerns seem to be timed while the battle drums of elections in Uttar Pradesh, a state where the Muslim vote is crucial to who comes to power in Lucknow, are being pounded on loudly? And so what if Mr Rushdie has visited India, more than once since 2007, without any hitch?
At the nub of the issue, of course, is The Satanic Verses, wh-ich was published in 1988. India was the first country to ban the novel in the world. All Mr Nomani wants is the government to “withdraw [Mr Rushdie’s] visa and prevent him from visiting India, where Muslims still feel hurt owing to the anti-Islamic remarks in his writings.”
The tricky bit will be, of course, for the UPA. Coming before the UP polls, the UPA would think twice about either not reacting to the demand or dismissing it. The government could let it out that like Mr Rushdie’s previous visits to India, his visit this time to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival is in a private capacity — similar to the visit of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Columbia University to deliver a lecture in 2007. If the University and the US could withstand Mr Ahmadinejad’s visit, then surely the Deoband and India can withstand Mr Rushdie? And if that doesn’t work, may we suggest that the government highlight the noxious anti-Islam motifs in a available book called The Divine Comedy? New Delhi could score bigger points by not allowing its Italian author Dante Alighieri into the country. Ever.