January 20, 2012 - 20:26 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Author Salman Rushdie has withdrawn from India's biggest literary festival, saying that he feared assassination after influential Muslim clerics protested against his participation.
He said he had been told by sources that assassins "may be on the way to Jaipur to kill me," BBC News reported.
Salman Rushdie sparked anger in the Muslim world with his book The Satanic Verses, which many see as blasphemous. He lived in hiding for many years after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his execution.
The author had been scheduled to speak on the opening day of the five-day Jaipur event which began on Friday, but earlier this week organisers said his schedule had changed and took his name off the list of speakers.
"I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to 'eliminate' me," Salman Rushdie said in a statement read out at the festival.
"While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the festival in such circumstances; irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience and to my fellow writers," he added. "I will therefore not travel to Jaipur as planned."
Salman Rushdie was born in India but is a British citizen and has lived in the UK for most of his life. In recent years he has made many private visits to India and attended the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2007.
On January 10, a leading Islamic seminary in India, Darul Uloom Deoband, called on the government to block Salman Rushdie's visit as he "had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past".