British author Salman Rushdie has dismissed demands by an influential Islamic seminary in India that he should be banned from entering the country to attend a literature festival later this month.Rushdie, who was threatened with death in a “fatwa” order from Iran over his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” is due to speak in the city of Jaipur alongside such fellow writers as Lionel Shriver and Richard Dawkins.
The Darululoom Deoband seminary, one of the world’s most important Islamic universities, is known for its conservative teachings and has been accused in the media of inspiring radical Islamic groups such as the Taliban.
Maulana Qasim Nomani, a seminary official, called for India to cancel Rushdie’s visa.
“The man whose blasphemous writings have hurt the sentiments of Muslims all over the world must not be allowed to set foot on Indian soil,” said Qasim Nomani.
Rushdie – who was born in Mumbai in 1947 – responded late Monday by pointing out on Twitter he did not need a visa to visit India.
The novelist spent a decade in hiding after Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued the fatwa in 1989 calling for his death for alleged blasphemy against Islam in “The Satanic Verses.”
The Times of India said Tuesday that Rushdie had visited India dozens of times over the last 20 years and it accused the seminary of trying to link the issue to state elections in Uttar Pradesh that begin on Feb. 8.
The seminary, which is located in Uttar Pradesh, was at the center of a row last year between reform-minded new rector Gulam Mohammad Vastanvi and the school’s traditionalists.
Vastanvi said he was sacked six months into his job for trying to modernize the curriculum, which is based on a 17th-century syllabus that focuses on Islamic law and spirituality.
Organizers of the Jaipur festival said Rushdie had attended literary events in India without incident in recent years, and was still scheduled to speak on Jan. 20 and 21.