Salman Rushdie and actor Kamal Haasan ponder exile after Muslim protests
Acclaimed British author Salman Rushdie cancelled a film promotional event and veteran Indian actor Kamal Haasan threatened to go into exile Wednesday after Muslim groups protested their work.
In the eastern city of Kolkata, Rushdie, whose 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” remains banned in India for allegedly insulting Islam, was forced to cancel a trip to promote a film of his novel “Midnight’s Children”.
TV footage showed about a hundred people from various Muslim groups gathered outside the Kolkata airport on Wednesday morning to protest his planned visit.
Haasan said he could leave the country after his new film “Vishwaroopam” was forced out of cinemas by the government in the southern state of Tamil Nadu for allegedly depicting Muslims in a negative light.
The latest incidents come amid growing concern about artistic expression and free speech in India.
Haasan said he was “fed up” by the controversy over his film and would seek to live in another country just like India’s acclaimed painter M.F. Hussain who was targeted by Hindu hardliners and fled the country in 2006.
“I will find, hopefully, another country which is secular that might take me in. M.F. Hussain had to do it, now Haasan will do it,” he said at a press conference in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.
Rushdie, whose stay in India has been shrouded in secrecy due to threats to his life, spent a decade in hiding after Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for his death.
Last year, Rushdie was forced to withdraw from a literary festival in the northwestern Indian city of Jaipur in January after death threats and angry protests from Islamists.
On Tuesday, Indian academic Ashis Nandy saw a police complaint filed against him for reportedly saying that some of India’s most disadvantaged groups were the “most corrupt”.
A cartoonist was last year charged with sedition and arrested over a private complaint about his work depicting widescale corruption in government ranks and the society.
He was released only after an outcry from freedom of expression campaigners.