Inviting Salman Rushdie ‘hurts Muslim religious feelings’: Iran’s Minister of Culture
Visitors at Frankfurt Book Fair were surprised to see Iran’s ready stands empty with no publisher.
“Insult to Islam and Iran is the reason why we boycotted the event”, read the explanation on the wall.
Iran decided to boycott the Frankfurt Book Fair because of an appearance by British Indian author Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses, it believes, depicted Islam’s prophet Muhammad in a disrespectful manner.
The Iranian government said it “strongly protests” the invitation of Rushdie and has urged other Muslim nations to boycott the largest book fair in the world. The 68th Frankfurt Book Fair is to be held from 19 to 23 October.
The Iranian foreign ministry said the fair had “under the pretext of freedom of expression, invited a person who is hated in the Islamic world and create the opportunity for Salman Rushdie … to make a speech”, according to Agence France-Presse.
In his letter, Iran’s Minister of Culture Ali Jannati said that inviting a writer which had hurt the feelings of millions of Muslims in his book “Satanic Verses” 3 decades ago, would only pour fuel to sectarian violence and interfaith hatred. “The book fair should be a ground for respecting all religions and beliefs, and make possible cultural cooperation; Frankfurt Book Fair has violated this important criteria in inviting an individual which had been hated by Muslims for desecration of the Prophet of Islam in his book,” reads part of the letter.
Ali Jannati announced that the ministry has sent letters to Islamic countries to ask them to show reaction to the recent appearance of the apostate writer Salman Rushdie in a press conference in Frankfurt Book Fair.
“I have written letters to the culture ministers of all Islamic countries, which exceeds 50 states, and to the secretary-general of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah, urging them to protest at the move by Frankfurt Book Fair,” Jannati told the Tasnim News Agency in southern city of Shiraz on Tuesday.The Islamic countries should react to this “provocative and anti-Islamic” move, and take appropriate stances so that the fair’s organizers would know that the Muslim world does not accept such measures, he added.
The fair’s organizers defended their decision to invite Rushdie, saying freedom of expression was a key theme at this year’s gathering of writers and publishers, 10 months after Islamists marched into the Paris office of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and gunned down 12 members of its editorial team.
“Freedom of the word is not negotiable,” said Juergen Boos, director of the exhibition.
“The Frankfurt Book Fair is a place of dialogue,” he said, adding that he regretted Iran’s decision to stay away. “It mustn’t be forgotten that Rushdie is still facing a death threat because of his work.”
In 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the revolution in Iran, sentenced Mr. Rushdie to death, urging Muslims to kill him because the Ayatollah believed that sections of Mr. Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” were offensive to Islam. In 1998 the Iranian government called off the death threat, though it could not be officially rescinded because Ayatollah Khomeini had died.
The book fair will be an occasion for the struggling book publishing industry – with an estimated total value of 114 billion euros worldwide – to look for new ideas as younger generations turn their eyes increasingly online. The fair will run through Oct. 18.