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Timeline of the Salman Rushdie Affair Over "The Satanic Verses"

How Islamist Fanaticism Took a Great Book and Its Author Hostage

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Timeline of the Salman Rushdie Affair Over

In 1989, the book was banned from three major American book chains.

June 19, 1947: Salman Rushdie is born is Mumbai, India.

1975: Rushdie publishes first novel, Grimus.

1981: Rushdie publishes Midnight’s Children, a novel about the birth of India that wins him the Booker Prize.

1983: Rushdie publishes Shame, a novel set in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas that satirizes Pakistan’s corrupt and venal leaders (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq).

Sept. 25, 1988: Reviewing the yet-unpublished The Satanic Verses in London’s Sunday Times, Bill Buford calls the book “a masterpiece of a novel that is more ambitious than any other fiction being written today.”

Sept. 26, 1988: Viking Penguin publishes Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in London. The novel re-imagines the life of Prophet Muhammad through the eyes and delirium of an Indian movie star in modern-day London, including a re-telling of the Prophet's tangle with the original Satanic verses.

Sep. 28, 1988 : The Satanic Verses is nominated for the $30,000 Booker Prize. (Peter Carey was to win it for Oscar and Lucinda).

Oct. 5, 1988: India bans The Satanic Verses.

Nov. 1, 1988: South Africa bans The Satanic Verses a few days before Rushdie was to speak on censorship in a literary festival organized by the anti-government Weekly Mal newspaper. Rusdhei cancels trip after death threats by Muslims. The newspaper is itself banned days later.

Nov. 8, 1988: The Satanic Verses is short-listed for Britain’s Whitbread Prize for fiction. (The award goes to The Comforts of Madness, by Paul Sayer.

Nov. 21, 1988: Gad el-Haq Ali Gad el-Haq , Grand Sheikh of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, one of the Muslim’s world’s most authoritative Islamic institutions and the seat of Islamic theology, declares The Satanic Verses banned in Egypt and calls on Islamic authorities everywhere to ensure that it its further distribution is banned in Britain.

January 1989: Pakistan and Bangladesh ban The Satanic Verses.

Jan. 14, 1989: WHSmith, Britain’s biggest bookseller, bans The Satanic Verses from its 430 stores. About 1,000 Muslims burn copies of the book at a rally in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. The New York Times reports bomb several threats phoned into Viking Penguin in New York, where the book is to be published in February.

Jan. 21, 1989: WHSmith reverses its ban. The book is selling too briskly in Britain. The chain store doesn’t want to miss out. Book-burning rallies continue in England.

Jan. 29, 1989: An individual burns copies of [it]The Satanic Verses at two bookstores owned by the University of Toronto in Canada.

Feb. 14, 1989 : Iran’s Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini sentences Salman Rushdie to death for, in Khomeini’s view, blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad in The Satanic Verses, along with “all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content.” Khomeini had not read the book.

Feb. 15, 1989: Rushdie goes into hiding with his then-wife of 13 months, his wife of 13 months, the novelist Marianne Wiggins.

Feb. 16, 1989: The New York Times reports that “theological scholars from Al Azhar [University in Cairo] and elsewhere said the ayatollah contravened Islamic law by calling for the death of the Indian-born Mr. Rushdie. ‘In Islam there is no tradition of killing people without trying them,’ said a senior scholar at Al Azhar, who declined to be identified.”

Feb. 16, 1989: Waldenbooks, which accounts for 20 to 30% of all book sales in the United States, bans The Satanic Verses from its stores.

Feb. 17, 1989 : B. Dalton and Barnes & Noble ban The Satanic Verses from their more than 1,250 stores in the United States.

Feb. 18, 1989: Salman Rushdie says, “I profoundly regret the distress that publication has occasioned to sincere followers of Islam.”

Feb. 21, 1989: U.S. President George H.W. Bush President Bush says Teheran’s death decree against Salman Rushdie is “deeply offensive to the norms of civilized behavior.”

Feb. 22, 1989: The Satanic Verses is officially published in New York by Viking Penguin.

Feb. 24, 1989 : At least 12 people are killed and 40 wounded when police fire at Muslims rioting in Mumbai against the novel.

May 22, 1989: The musician once known as Cat Stevens declares in a British television interview that rather than burn an effigy of Salman Rushdie, “I would have hoped that it’d be the real thing.” Yusuf Islam, as Cat Stevens re-named himself after his conversion to Islam, also said that if Rushdie turned up at his doorstep looking for help, “I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I’d try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is.”

May 1990: A British publisher drops plan to publish an illustrated edition of Rushdie’s short stories. Rushdie’s American publisher delays a decision on publishing Rushdie’s next work, a collection for children.

July 3, 1991: Ettore Capriolo, the 61-year-old Italian translator of The Satanic Verses, is stabbed in his apartment in Milan. He survives.

July 12, 1991: Hitoshi Igarashi, the 44-year-old Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses, is murdered. He’d been stabbed several times outside his office at Tsukuba University, northeast of Tokyo.

Dec. 11, 1991: Without warning, Salman Rushdie makes an appearance during the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s salute to the First Amendment and Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Rushdie delivers a 20-minute address, saying “free speech is life itself.”

March 1992: A paperback edition of The Satanic Verses is published in the United States by an anonymous group calling itself the Consortium.

November 1993: Egypt’s Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, Morocco’s Tahar Ben Jelloun and some 100 other writers and intellectuals from a dozen Muslim countries rally for Rushdie in a collection entitled For Rushdie. rally for Salman Rushdie

Sept. 24, 1998: Iran lifts its death sentence on Rushdie.

Feb. 4, 1999: India grants Rushdie a visa to return to his native land.

Sept. 26, 2008: The Satanic Verses is 20 years old. By now Rushdie has married and divorced four times and has published five novels subsequent to Verses.

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