Salman Rushdie won the hearts of critics with his controversial 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, but many Muslims worldwide were enraged at what they saw as its blasphemous anti-Islamic message. 21 protesters were killed and 223 were wounded while rioting against the book in India, Islamabad, Pakistan, and Kashmir. On February 14, 1989, the Iranian Ayatollah issued a fatwa against Rushdie, urging all good Muslims to kill him.
With an alleged $6 million price tag on his head, the author lived for nine years in hiding under the protection of British police. Musician and Muslim convert Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam) said that if Rushdie showed up on his doorstep, he “might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like.” In 1998 Iran’s government formally distanced itself from the death warrant. Salman came out of hiding, married smoking-hot Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi (it lasted 8.5 years), and in June 2007 was knighted by the Queen of England.
Others involved with the controversial book did not escape the wrath of angry Muslims: two of its translators were stabbed, one fatally, and his Norwegian publisher narrowly survived an attempted assassination. Hard-line groups in Iran continue to insist the fatwa is irrevocable. Salman reports that every year on February 14 he gets a special “Valentine’s card” from Iran, reminding him that the vow to kill him has not been forgotten.