HT This Day: February 16, 1989 -- Salman Rushdie goes into hiding | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

HT This Day: February 16, 1989 -- Salman Rushdie goes into hiding

Feb 15, 2024 04:49 PM IST

In Teheran, demonstrators stoned the British embassy as spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionary guards corps vowed to kill Rushdie

London: Salman Rushdie went into hiding today protected by armed police as protests over the Indian-born author’s controversial book “The Satanic Verses” threatened to spoil the delicate relations between Iran and Britam.

HT This Day: February 16, 1989 -- Salman Rushdie goes into hiding (HT)
HT This Day: February 16, 1989 -- Salman Rushdie goes into hiding (HT)

In Teheran, demonstrators stoned the British embassy as spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionary guards corps vowed to kill Rushdie.

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The windows of the embassy were smashed by the protesters. More protests have been planned in Pakistan and Iran against the publishing of the book which, according to the fundamentalists, insults Islam.

Britain, expressing serious concern, was urgently seeking a clarification of the reported statement by Khomeini calling for the execution of Mr Rushdie.

The author - who declared here last night that he should have written an even more critical novel- was untraceable.

“We don’t know where he is”, a spokeswoman for Penguin-Viking, the publishers of Mr Rushdie’s controversial novel said. “He rings us up from time to time, and that’s all the contact we have with him”.

The spokeswoman would offer no comment on whether the publishers had provided Mr Rushdie with private bodyguards, saying only “we are taking the threat very seriously”.

(According to AFP, an Iranian death squad is probably already in Britain tracking the author Salman Rushdie, who has been ordered executed by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an anti-terrorist expert said.

Ian Geldard of the London-based Institute for the Study of Terrorism said: “It is possible that a hit squad may have been dispatched from Iran but, in my view, it is quite likely that a sleeper squad is already here.”)

Scotland Yard too would not confirm if they had been approached by Mr Rushdie for protection, saying they did not discuss security matters.

Meanwhile, Viking - the publishers of Salman Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” - today apologised for any offence it may have caused among Muslims.

The written apology in the form of a statement followed the edict issued yesterday by Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini asking Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie and his publishers.

But a Viking spokesman said there was no plan to withdraw the book.

P. Sharma adds: The Anglo-Iranian relations are under threat as Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the execution of Salman Rushdie in Teheran yesterday.

The British Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, said in Madrid that Britain was seeking urgent clarification of Ayatollah Khomeini’s remarks through the British Embassy in Teheran. He said that it would cause Britain “very real concern” if the death threat had been reported accurately.

It is clear that the threat would not help the process of normalisation of relations between London and Teheran. At Westminster, members of Parliament reacted sharply over the execution order issued by the Ayatollah and urged the Government to protest formally to the Teheran regime. Tory members of Parliament tabled a motion in the House of Commons condemning the order. “It is a positive outrage to civilised standards throughout the world,” Mr David Wilshire, who sponsored the motion, said.

Sir Eldon Griffiths, chairman of the all-party parliamentary Anglo-Iranian group, said that the Government should immediately call in the Iranian Charge d’ Affaires and register a formal protest. Significantly, their outrage was shared by members of Parliament who sponsored a motion in the House of Commons criticising Mr Rushdie’s book last month.

Rushdie has been provided an armed guard following the ‘fatwa’ of the Ayatollah. He is living in hiding here. His wife, Ms Marianne Wiggins, said that she was “terrified”. “The best thing for him to do now is to stay in hiding with a special branch man at his side,” she said as she left their north London home. But Rushdie said in a TV interview last night: “Frankly I wish I had written a more critical book. A religion that claims that it is able to behave like this, religious leaders who are able to behave like this, and then say this is a religion which must be above any kind of whisper of criticism, that doesn’t add up.” The interview may have been recorded before the Ayatollah’s order.

The fact is that both he and his publishers are taking the threat seriously. Rushdie is believed to have sought Scotland Yard protection. He described the threat to his life as “a further indication of the extraordinary unscrupulousness” of the campaign against the book.

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