The Satanic Verses Affair

Twenty years ago, novelist Salman Rushdie was a wanted man with a
million pound bounty on his head. His novel, The Satanic Verses, had
sparked riots across the Muslim world. The ailing religious leader of
Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, had invoked a little-known religious
opinion – a fatwa – and effectively sentenced Rushdie to death. Never
before had a novel created an international diplomatic crisis on such a
scale, and never before had a foreign Government publicly called for
the killing of a private citizen of another country.

This film looks back on the extraordinary events which followed the
publication of the book and the ten year campaign to get the fatwa
lifted. Interviews with Rushdie’s friends and family and testimony from
leaders of Britain’s Muslim community and the Government reveal the
inside story of the affair. Rushdie himself was forced into hiding for
nearly ten years. Arguably this was the moment when religious
identities, in Britain and abroad, became more important than ethnic
and cultural belonging.

The Satanic Verses Affair airs on Saturday 9 March at 9pm on BBC Two.

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