Iran withdraws from Frankfurt Book Fair after Salman Rushdie announced as guest speaker

The Islamic republic called on other Muslim nations to join its boycott

Alexandra Sims
Monday 12 October 2015 16:50
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Iran has cancelled its appearence at next week’s Frankfurt Book Fair after author Salman Rushdie was invited to speak at the event.

The Iranian government said the fair had “under the pretext of freedom of expression, invited a person who is hated in the Islamic world and created the opportunity for Salman Rushdie ... to make a speech”, AFP reports.

The Islamic republic reportedly called on other Muslim nations to join its boycott saying it “strongly protests” Rushdie’s appearance at the fair, which is one of the largest in the world.

Rushdie was the target of a fatwa, or religious edict, which called for his killing following the publication of his 1989 novel The Satanic Verses.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder, issued the fatwa after he and others in the Muslim world said Rushdie had blasphemously depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

Rushdie, a UK citizen, was forced into hiding by the order and placed under police protection by the British government.

Protesters chant slogans to condemn Britain's knighting of Salman Rushdie in 2007

Mr Khomeini’s successor, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in 2005 that the order still stands.

The fair has since defended its choice of speaker, saying freedom of expression is a key theme at this year’s gathering of writers and publishers.

Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, said in a statement: “We very much regret the Iranian Ministry of Culture’s cancellation.

“The Frankfurt Book Fair is a place of dialogue. At the same time, we hope that this year’s cancellation is just a brief interruption in the existing conversations and that we can continue to expand on the established relationships.

“Nevertheless, for us, freedom of expression is non-negotiable. We must not forget that Rushdie is still being threatened with death for his work.”

Despite Iran’s cancellation of their national stand at the event, the fair confirmed several Iranian publishers will still be present.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is one of the international publishing industry’s biggest trade fairs, with 7,100 exhibitors from more than 100 countries.

Since 1976 the fair has featured an annual Guest of Honour country, which this year is Indonesia - the nation with the largest Muslim population.

Additonal reporting by Press Association

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