NEW DELHI, Oct 7, Reuter: Indian newspapers on Friday condemned a government decision to ban India born novelist Salman Rushdie’s latest book.

The London based writer’s satanic verses, shortlisted for Britain’s prestige booker prize, was banned on Wednesday after complaint’s it was offensive to Islam.

“The book is not seditious, it does not threaten the security of the state, it is not pornographic or harmful to the morals of minors,” the India Express newspaper said in an editorial.

“It has been banned simply because of the demand of a handful of people who claim to be the arbiters of what constitutes sacrilege and the boundaries of novelistic license.”

To ban the book the Government used a 19th century law empowering it to halt the import of materials which could cause enmity between communities.

Members of Parliament had complained the book was offensive to Islam because of the way it portrayed the Prophet Mohammad, the founder of Islam.

Moslems form 12 percent of India’s predominantly Hindu population of 800 million. Violent clashes between the two communities occur frequently and are one of the most sensitive issues in Indian politics.

Politicians are also sensitive to the Moslem vote, especially with elections due within the next 15 months.

“As Moslem leaders were opposed to (The Book) the government thought it prudent to take a decision. The communal situation is very fragile,” a Government official said.

Historian Romila Thapar told the statesman newspaper the government would have to ban 20 books a year if it gave in to pressure from religious lobbies.

Rushdie, who specialized in Islamic studies at Cambridge University, was born in Bombay but his mother and sister now live in Pakistan.

His earlier book Midnight’s children which describes the partition of India and creation of Pakistan in 1947, sold nearly 100,000 copies in India and was also pirated on a large scale.

Article extracted from this publication >> October 14, 1988