Is it wise for Rushdie to go home again? His safety is far from assured. Whatever the attitude of the Iranian government, Islamic hard-liners in Tehran won't back off their threats against Rushdie's life. A powerful mullah-run foundation has raised the standing $2.5 million reward offered to his killer by an additional $300,000. And a journey to India, with its 120 million Muslims, could make him an easier target. Warned the English-language Tehran Times: Providence may have destined this shameless character to meet his nemesis where he was born.
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Rushdie's Indian friends and admirers are encouraging him to return, despite the danger. I just hope he comes here as quickly as possible, and that all of us take good care of him, says Bombay novelist Kiran Nagarkar. Painter Khakhar observes that it is quite essential for the expatriate author to visit his native country, and Rushdie himself has spoken of how his writing in exile explores imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind. Other intellectuals, however, acknowledge the difficulties he will face. Rushdie's books are based on the postmodern premise that history and fiction are interchangeable, says poet and architect Masood Taj. This is incompatible with the Muslim world view.
Rushdie's passage back to India could have political as well as personal consequences. His visa came from a government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, widely perceived by India's Muslims and other minorities as pursuing a pro-majority Hindu agenda. Any trouble caused by Muslims during a Rushdie visit would only help the BJP consolidate its Hindu support. Unlike the fantastic journeys undertaken in his imaginary homelands, Rushdie's long-desired return to his roots may need to be a quiet, intensely private affair.