New Delhi: Salman Rushdie's proposed visit to Jaipur for the Literary Festival has come under a cloud as Darul Uloom Deoband, the Islamic Seminary, wants the government to cancel Rushdie's visa for hurting the sentiments of Muslims in the past.
"Indian government should cancel his visa as Rushdie had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past," Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, the Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom, said in a release.
The government should take into account the feelings of Muslims against Rushdie, he stressed.
However, Rushdie said that he does not need a visa for visiting India. He tweeted, "Re: my Indian visit, for the record, I don't need a visa."
Rushdie had a fatwa against him since 1989 after the publication of 'The Satanic Verses'. He is scheduled to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival from January 20 to 24. He has visited the literature festival before, in 2007. The fatwa was eased in 1998, but not withdrawn, when Mohd Khatami's government in Iran said it had no intention of helping anyone enforce it.
However, one of the organisers of the prestigious literary festival said Rushdie would be coming as scheduled.
On January 21, Rushdie, along with authors Rita Kothari and Tarun Tejpal, is slated to discuss the nuances of English with noted writer Ira Pande on the topic 'Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The chutnification of English'. He has two other sessions at the literature festival.
"We will write to the external affairs ministry, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi if the government doesn't cancel his visa," Nomani said.
Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamworks Productions, which produces the Jaipur Literature Festival, said, "A literature platform like the Jaipur festival is a place for free speech in the best democratic traditions. Salman Rushdie has attended several literary events and forums in India in recent years without incident. This includes his attending the Commonwealth Writers Prize awards in 2000, and the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2007."
"In plural societies such as ours, it is imperative that we continue to allow avenues for unfettered literary expression," he added.
The 65-year-old author had been under attack by Islamic hardliners for his controversial book "The Satanic Verses", published in 1988, for "alleged blasphemy" against Prophet Mohammed. India was among the first countries to ban the book.
Rushdie has been in India twice since the controversy. His first visit in 2000 to the country of his birth 12 years after "Satanic Verses" was banned created a flutter in the media. The writer was escorted around with unprecedented security.
In 2007, Rushdie attended the festival at Jaipur. The visit came despite protests by some Muslim groups.
Last year, speculative media reports that he had been invited to attend a Kashmiri literary festival, Harud, had whipped up a controversy in Jammu and Kashmir. The festival was eventually called off - though not for this reason alone.
The novel triggered controversy soon after it was published. Muslims the world over protested, some of the protests turning violent. It also invited a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, the late supreme leader of Iran. In February, 1989 Khomeini called for the death of Rushdie and his publishers.
The fatwa was later revoked on September 24, 1998.
(With additional information from PTI and IANS)Twitter buzz: Salman Rushdie