LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - Muslim leaders have demanded India ban Salman Rushdie from entering the country to attend a literary festival in Jaipur, re-igniting a decades-old row about the Booker prize-winning author’s works.
Rushdie’s 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” was considered blasphemous by many Muslims and sparked calls for him to be killed, forcing the writer into hiding for years. He has visited India since, although the book is still banned there.
“India is a country where the sentiments of each community and caste are respected and therefore such a man should not be permitted to come to the country,” Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali, a prominent Muslim cleric, told Reuters.
His comments echoed those of other clerics at a high-profile Muslim seminary who said Rushdie had offended tens of millions of Muslims by insulting the Prophet Mohammad, according to statements made to Indian media.
Rushdie rejected the demand he be denied a travel permit.
“... for the record, I don’t need a visa,” the Indian-born Rushdie said on Twitter.
Many comments on the microblogging website on Tuesday supported Rushdie, who won the Booker prize for his novel “Midnight’s Children” in 1981.
Muslims represent about 13 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people.
Rushdie is due to attend Asia’s largest literary festival in historic Jaipur city from January 20-24.
Writing by Matthias Williams; additional reporting by Matthias Williams, Annie Banerji and Nigam Prusty in NEW DELHI