Rushdie rounds on `cowardly' ban by Denmark

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The Independent Online
The novelist Salman Rushdie yesterday condemned as "cowardly" a decision by the Danish government to ban him from a literary award ceremony in Copenhagen, writes Michael Streeter.

Rushdie said the authorities had refused to allow him to accept the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature in person later this month. This was the "opposite" of how a government should react to the fatwa imposed on the writer following the publication of his The Satanic Verses, he said.

However, Danish police explained they were unable to cope with the extra security risk because they were over-stretched dealing with the biker war raging throughout the Nordic countries. "We [used] so many resources to keep an eye on the bikers," Copenhagen police chief Hanne Bech Hansen said.

The International Rushdie Defence Committee said that the Danish government told the writer yesterday he would not be permitted to go to the ceremony in what is the present European City of Culture to collect the prize for his novel The Moor's Last Sigh.

The committee said there had been no public suggestion that Rushdie, who has lived under the shadow of the fatwa for seven and a half years, would be travelling to the 14 November ceremony in person. It called on Rushdie's co-prize winner Christoph Ransmayr to boycott the ceremony.

The committee said that the Danish authorities told them: "This decision has been taken in view of the present situation for the police in Denmark."

The Danes also claimed that advance publicity of Rushdie's visit had increased security risks.

Rushdie, who will now refuse the prize, said: "It is scandalous that Copenhagen, the present capital of culture, refuses to permit the winner of the EU's own literature prize, to attend the awards ceremony.

"It is a cowardly decision, which is exactly the opposite of what one should do in the face of threats such as the Iranian fatwa."