Salman Rushdie, the author with a $3 million bounty on his head for his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses,” once had a fatwa issued against him before he was stabbed in the neck by a masked assailant on Friday.
The 75-year-old Indian-born author was slated to talk at the Chautauqua Institution in Upstate New York, about 75 miles south of Buffalo, when a lone attacker stormed the stage and stabbed him shortly after he was introduced around 11 a.m., police said.
The attacker’s motive wasn’t immediately clear but Rushdie has been receiving death threats since the late 1980s after he published “The Satanic Verses,” a controversial fantasy novel that some Muslims considered to be blasphemous over its references to Islam.
Soon after Rushdie published the novel, Ayatollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa, or edict, against the author calling for his death in February 1989.
The novel, which centers around two protagonists who survived a plane crash after it was hijacked by two Sikh terrorists, describes a dream had by one of the characters that’s considered to be a revisionist history of how Islam was founded, according to Britannica.
The references in that section of the book, which include a fictional version of Muhammad, angered Khomeini, who announced the fatwa on Iranian radio and called for Rushdie “to be killed without delay, so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth.”
Following the edict, Rushdie went into hiding and began using the pseudonym Joseph Anton. He was placed under protection by the British Government who kept an armed security guard around the scribe from 1989 until 2002, two years after he moved to the Big Apple where’s mostly lived close to Union Square.
The Iranian government later lifted the fatwa but over the last decade, the 15 Khordad Foundation, a semi-religious organization based in Iran, placed a $3 million bounty on his head.
Rushdie has written more than a dozen books since 1981, when he first rose to fame after publishing his Booker Prize winning tome “Midnight’s Children.”
While many of Rushdie’s books have magical or surrealist themes, he has also published four non-fiction works, including a memoir and a book of essays.
His most recently published book, “Quichotte,” came out in 2019 and centers around a television-obsessed salesman who falls in love with a television star. He’s due to release yet another novel, “Victory City,” in 2023.
Rushdie’s work has garnered a series of awards and honors over the years, including the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel, which he’s won twice, and the James Tait Black Prize.
He’s an honorary professor in Humanities at MIT and holds honorary doctorates and fellowships at six European and six American universities.
Married four times, the 75-year-old has gotten a reputation while in hiding for being a ladies man dating young women — and even appeared in an episode of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm’ about ladies who wanted to have “fatwa sex” with him.
In the episode, which is fiction, David had a fatwa placed against him after making fun of the Ayatollah and Rushdie offered him some advice on how to handle it – and explained some of the benefits, including how women found men with fatwas over them irresistible.
Of Rushdie’s four wives, three married him while the fatwa was still looming over his life.
After his marriage to his first wife Clarissa Luard fell apart in 1987, he married American novelist Marianne Wiggins the following year, only to divorce while Rushdie was still in hiding in 1993.
In 1997, he linked up with Elizabeth West and in 2004, he married Padma Lakshmi, an Indian-American model, actress and the host of the reality show “Top Chef.”
Like all of Rushdie’s previous marriages, the love didn’t last long and the two split in 2007.
In 2016, Lakshmi opened up about her marriage with Rushdie in an interview with People while promoting her memoir “Love, Loss and What We Ate.”
“Imagine a young woman in her twenties, who loves books and who had published her little cookbook and in comes this guy,” she told the glossy.
“I mean, he was the best thing that ever happened to me by a mile. The fact that somebody of that stature and caliber was even interested remotely enough in me to want to take me to lunch was kind of unbelievable.”
Lakshmi said the spark faded when she started to become more famous and couldn’t spend as much time with Rushdie, and also couldn’t have sex with him because of her endometriois condition.
“I think that Salman took it personally, and I think that he felt rejected,” Lakshmi said.
Throughout his marriages and divorces, news of Rushdie’s many gal pals have been a mainstay on gossip columns. Most recently, he was linked to Rachel Eliza Griffiths, a poet and artist some 30 years his junior.
With Post Wires
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