NEWS
20/01/2012 08:47 GMT | Updated 21/03/2012 05:12 GMT

Salman Rushdie Cancels Festival Appearance After Mafia Death Threat

Who said being a writer was a quiet life? Salman Rushdie has been forced to cancel his appearance at Asia’s biggest literary festival after receiving a death threat from a Mumbai mafia gang.

Up until now, the author has been keeping his counsel as the controversy surrounding his appearance at the five-day Jaipur Literary Festival continued to grow.

Rushdie was warned this month by Muslim clerics not to show up with one prominent Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband, saying he had "annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past" and several religious figures calling on authorities to ban him from the country.

Now, in light of information passed on to the author from security services in Mumbai, they’ve got their wish.

"I have been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to 'eliminate' me,” Rushdie said in a statement.

"While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the festival in such circumstances; irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience, and to my fellow writers."

Although he won’t be appearing in person, former Booker Prize winner Rushdie will be talking at the festival via video link.

He later tweeted: “Very sad not to be at jaipur. I was told bombay mafia don issued weapons to 2 hitmen to "eliminate" me. Will do video link instead. Damn.”

He also used the social networking site to thank supporters and hit back at critics, posting: “Much support and sympathy: thanks, everyone. Some say I let people down: sorry you feel that. Some Muslim hate tweets: pathetic”

The root of Muslim antipathy towards Salman Rushdie stems from his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, which provoked widespread anger when it was published and led to a fatwa (death warrant) being imposed on the author by the then-Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, who declared that it insulted the Prophet Mohammed.

The book is still banned in India, which has the third largest Muslim population in the world.

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