Muslim groups oppose Rushdie's visit to Jaipur fest

Special Correspondent
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Threaten to launch State-wide protest coinciding with the opening of the fest

Strong opposition:Muslim leaders addressing a press conference in Jaipur on Friday.
Strong opposition:Muslim leaders addressing a press conference in Jaipur on Friday.

Muslim organisations here on Friday warned the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival and the Rajasthan authorities against participation of novelist Salman Rushdie in the mega-event starting this coming Friday. They threatened to launch a State-wide protest coinciding with the opening of the five-day event, after the namaz .

As many as nine Muslim groups — including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Rajasthan; All India Imam Council, All India Milli Council, Jamaat-e- Ulema Hind, Rajasthan and Muslim Forum, Rajasthan — jointly convened a press conference at the Muslim Muzafir Khana here to express their “severe disgust” over the move to allow participation of the controversial author in the Jaipur Literature Festival 2012. The last time Mr. Rushdie attended the event was in 2007, which seemingly went unnoticed by these organisations.

Addressing the media, Jamaat-e-Ulema Hind president Habibullah said the Muslims of this country were against Mr. Rushdie's visit to India and in particular to the event in Jaipur.

“By allowing him free movement here the Government is playing with the religious sentiments of Muslims,” he said. Mr. Habibullah warned of strong protests if Mr. Rushdie reaches Jaipur for the festival.

“In case the authorities do not stop him and he arrives, Muslims from all over Rajasthan will assemble at Jama Masjid in Johri Bazar (in the Walled City) and after the Jumma prayers would start an indefinite dharna. We are not responsible for what happens thereafter,” he said.

A day before, after addressing a high-level meeting of State Government functionaries, Rajasthan Chief Secretary A. Ahmad had told this correspondent that it was not for the State to stop Mr. Rushdie from visiting. The Government on its part would not get involved in the matter, but only ensure law and order as he is coming for a non-government event, he said.

However, Jamaat-e-Islami national secretary Engineer Saleem — who was not present at the press conference — told The Hindu on phone that whatever be the protests against the visit of Mr. Rushdie they would all be peaceful and democratic. “We respect the freedom of expression. We are of the opinion that freedom of expression should be protected in everyone's case. However, the expression should not hurt the sentiments of others. That way the freedom of expression cannot be unlimited,” he noted, speaking in the context of charges of blasphemy against Mr. Rushdie.

Asked about their stand towards the Literature Festival as such, Mr. Saleem said they appreciated the holding of the event. “Literature should be promoted. Good writers and academicians get honoured by such events and we welcome it. Our only disagreement is with inviting such [like Mr. Rushdie] persons who resort to provocative language and expression for cheap popularity,” he said.



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