Wall Street Journal: Watching India-born British novelist Salman Rushdie dodge bullets, tackle a gang of assassins and battle for survival will be a common sight, if an Iranian student organization has its way. The Wall Street Journal
Watching India-born British novelist Salman Rushdie dodge bullets, tackle a gang of assassins and battle for survival will be a common sight, if an Iranian student organization has its way.
But Mr. Rushdie needn’t live in too much fear, as this is all part of a video game.
The state-sponsored Islamic Association of Students has vowed to “warn” youths about the writer, who is reviled by some Muslims for the “blasphemous” content in his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses.”
Their solution: A video game titled “The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict.”
The so-called “verdict” comes in response to the fatwa issued by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, a few months after the book was first banned in India.
Though the fatwa was withdrawn by Iran’s foreign ministry over a decade ago, it hasn’t deterred the game’s developers, who floated the concept at a computer expo in Tehran Wednesday.
The Booker Prize-winning author has escaped several assassination attempts over the last two decades, but he may not be as lucky in the virtual universe. “We felt we should find a way to introduce our third and fourth generation to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and its importance,” Mohammed-Taqi Fakhrian, a representative of the students association, told Iranian newswire Mehr at the computer expo.
Mr. Fakhrian was tight-lipped about the game, but several commentators have opined on how and where Mr. Rushdie would meet his “verdict.”
“Presumably, the new video game will have Iranian youth chasing down and killing the author in the West, perhaps even on the very streets of New York,” U.S. tabloid New York News Daily speculated, while the Guardian discreetly suggested that radical Mr. Khomeini would be the mastermind behind aggressive attacks on Mr. Rushdie.
But the game’s developers have more immediate concerns, as technical snags have delayed the release, says Ahmad Khalili, the student association’s director. The game, which has been in development for more than three years, is still expected to hit the Iranian market soon.
Is the concept likely to take off in India, where Mr. Rushdie’s planned appearance at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival was canceled because of security concerns?
“Not at all,” says Zafarul-Islam Khan, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, a non-political Muslim group. “Only insane extremists would welcome it,” he says, adding that the game would encourage “hatred and violence among the Indian youth.”
But some Indian gamers say otherwise. “It’s just a game,” says 22-year-old Farhan Khan, a student at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi. Mr. Khan, who claims he has “nothing against” Mr. Rushdie, argues that “every other video game is violent and gruesome anyway.”
“The concept of a celebrity themed-game might initially attract attention but eventually if the game’s graphics or coding isn’t good enough, it really won’t garner steam among veteran gamers in India,” he adds.