Muslim Members Of Parliament Call For Rushdie's Police Protection To Be Lifted
TWO Labour Asian peers called yesterday for Salman Rushdie to be stripped of police protection, claiming that he was obsessed with self-publicity to the point of flaunting his new relationship with a model.
They said it was time Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, removed the round-the-clock Special Branch protection that Mr Rushdie still received, which is estimated to cost taxpayers up to £1 million a year. Lord Ahmed and Lady Uddin, both Muslims, said the author of The Satanic Verses was hooked on publicity "whether it's with a model or saying his life is in danger" and the money would be better spent providing more police for everyone else.
Lord Ahmed said: "It is debatable whether Mr Rushdie should still receive protection, bearing in mind the amount of money he earns. Do we pay for all important people in private industry to receive police protection because they may be the target of criminals? And that is what Salman Rushdie is in, private industry."
His comments were endorsed by Lady Uddin who said Mr Rushdie was too ungrateful. She said: "Public money should be used for someone who is grateful. We should not pay for this protection when he has so little gratitude. It is a mockery of democracy."
Mr Rushdie, who is currently in London, said he was "furious" at the remarks, not least at claims that taxpayers were funding Special Branch protection when he was abroad as well as in London. He said that it was the police who insisted on protection in Britain, not himself.
"I find the police protection frustrating too," he said, adding that he was in constant talks with the authorities about the necessity for it and the feasibility of normal life being restored. He said he had always paid the cost of living in different safe houses and felt "extremely maligned". He was still a British citizen, paying 40 per cent tax, and Britain was probably "in profit" at the end of the day as a result of the amount he handed over to the Treasury.
Mr Rushdie, 53, was criticised for spending a lot of time in New York. He has had protection since a fatwa was imposed on him in 1989 for blasphemy by the Ayatollah Khomeini following the publication of The Satanic Verses. The fatwa was lifted two years ago. The Japanese translator of the book was killed by a hit squad and the Italian translator and the Norwegian publisher have been seriously wounded.