Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Is Giving Clarifications After Mild Criticism Of Attack On ‘Blasphemer’ Salman Rushdie

by Swarajya Staff - Aug 22, 2022 01:55 PM +05:30 IST
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Is Giving Clarifications After Mild Criticism Of Attack On ‘Blasphemer’ Salman RushdieFormer Pakistani prime Minister Imran Khan.
Snapshot
  • Khan’s mild criticism of the attack on Rushdie has been met with huge criticism from his followers and other Pakistanis, who have construed his statement as support given to a blasphemer.

In a recent interview to British daily The Guardian, former prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan mildly criticised the recent attempt to murder author Salman Rushdie over a 34-year-old case of blasphemy against him.

Khan called the attack “terrible” and “sad”.

He told the newspaper, “Rushdie understood because he came from a Muslim family. He knows the love and respect of a prophet that lives in our hearts. He knew that…So, the anger I understood, but you can’t justify what happened.”

After the publication of his book The Satanic Verses in 1988, then London-resident Rushdie came under a barrage of criticism from the Islamic world for allegedly committing blasphemy of Islam’s prophet and his close companions.

India became the first country to ban the book. In 1989, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared a fatwa of death on Rushdie and put a bounty on his head.

Rushdie remained in hiding for a decade, with protection from the UK government. In the last few years, however, he had begun to make public appearances.

Earlier this month, he was stabbed at a public event in New York by a Muslim man named Hadi Matar, a resident of Unites States. Rushdie has survived the attack but may lose vision in one eye, his agent told the media.

Khan’s mild criticism of the attack on Rushdie has been met with huge criticism from his followers and other Pakistanis, who have construed his statement as support given to a blasphemer.

In Pakistan, the offence of blasphemy of Islam’s founder carries death sentence.

A day after The Guardian interview was published, the official Twitter account of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the political party founded by Khan in 1996, posted a video of a news report, which said that as per Khan, his statement had been "taken out of context" by the newspaper.

The report said that Khan defended himself saying he never supported Rushdie. In 2012, he had refused to attend an event in New Delhi because Rushdie was to make an appearance. In the Guardian interview, he only explained the Islamic method of punishing blasphemers.

In response, The Guardian’s world affairs editor Julian Borger tweeted on 20 August that the publication did not misquote Imran Khan.

“We did not misquote Imran Khan. We stand absolutely by our reporting of the interview. Khan himself is not saying we misquoted him, only that we took his remarks out of context, but we provided the context, as you can see in the story,” Borger posted.

The entire episode is a manifestation that blasphemy of Islam’s founder has become an extremely sensitive subject in the Islamic world and any mild criticism of vigilante violence over it is met with criticism from Muslims.

The episode has come at a time when Indian resident Nupur Sharma, a former spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party, is facing death threats globally for a statement she made on a television news channel.

At least two people, both Hindus, have been killed by Islamic fanatics in India for supporting Sharma against these death threats.

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