India Visa Creates Rushdie Dilemma

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NEW DELHI: Ten years after receiving what he calls his "unfunny Valentine" from Ayatollah Khomeini, Salman Rushdie may be inadvertently drawn into India's communal tension. Muslim activists made death threats and burned effigies of Rushdie in Bombay Friday, after India's government had granted the iconoclastic Indian-born British writer an entry visa after nine years of rejections. "Rushdie's visa creates a dilemma for a writer who has long championed the rights of minorities," says TIME New Delhi correspondent Maseeh Rahman. "It's been granted by a Hindu-nationalist government widely perceived by India's minorities as hostile. Any problems caused by the Muslim minority during a Rushdie visit could be used to consolidate Hindu nationalist support."

Ten years ago on February 14, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa -- an edict ordering Rushdie's execution for perceived slights against Islam in his novel "The Satanic Verses." An Iranian religious foundation recently upped the bounty on the writer's head to $2.8 million. So even though he's now allowed to go home, he'd better have a good disguise.