Salman Rushdie: 'John Major didn't back me up over fatwa'

 

John Major's government offered little assistance to Sir Salman Rushdie when an Iranian cleric called for him to be killed, while the Foreign Office was actually "hostile," the author has claimed.

Ayatollah Khomeini imposed the fatwa against him in 1989, following the publication of The Satanic Verses. In an interview with The Independent, Rushdie said the government of the time "had this idea of keeping quiet and letting it go away". He added the death sentence would have been lifted earlier had the Major government pushed the issue.

Sir Salman said: "The Foreign Office I often felt was hostile," before adding: "That sense I'd made a terrible nuisance of myself was there in quite a lot of the civil servants that I met."

The attitudes changed following the election of New Labour in 1997 driven by support from Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, and his deputy Derek Fatchett.

He said Mr Cook "was just passionately determined to fix this. It was so different, the mood".

The then Prime Minister Tony Blair invited him to dinner at Chequers on one anniversary of the fatwa "as a deliberate statement".

When Iran's President Mohammad Khatami declared the issue was "completely finished" in 1998, Rushdie saw the move as the Iranian government becoming "genuinely interested in a rapprochement with the West". He was sure the issue could have been resolved earlier, he added, saying: "I could see the moment the British government was saying, 'We've got to fix this, we've got to deal with it,' the Iranians actually listened."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in