He was in hiding for 9 years and the bounty on his head continued to be in effect. His memoir Joseph Anton, which describes his years in hiding, was published on September 18th 2012 and the bounty on his head increased from $2.8million to $3.3million.
Joseph Anton was the name Salman Rushdie took when in hiding. This was the name born from a combination of the first names of Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov, two of his favorite writers.
To jog our memory, Mr. Rushdie’s fourth novel The Satanic Verses was said to have made blasphemous references to Islam. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwah on Mr. Rushdie and his publishers calling upon all Muslims to kill him or have him killed, following the February 1989 riots in Pakistan where The Satanic Verses were publicly burnt.
Rushdie went into hiding and was offered police protection. Assassination squads were sent after him. Britain severed ties with Iran for this preposterous act. 23 years later, came the memoir. India has distanced herself from Rushdie, shunning him from the Jaipur Literary Festival, but the memoir has been allowed to circulate within the country.
"For a long time I didn't want to write this because I felt it would be too upsetting. But writing it actually wasn't," Mr. Rushdie tells The Guardian. Explaining why he wrote it Mr. Rushdie added, "Well, I didn't want to write 600 pages of getting even. I thought I would try to be as understanding as possible to everybody else and as rough as possible on myself. I decided not to varnish stuff."
Right around the time Joseph Anton was scheduled to be published, an Internet film, said to be demeaning to Islam, went viral causing riots worldwide. Whether completely unrelated or not, Mr. Rushdie was again held responsible for the rising tensions against Islam. Mr. Rushdie’s reaction, as stated to The Guardian was, “The film is clearly a malevolent piece of garbage. The civilised response would be to say of the director: 'Fuck him. Let's get on with our day.' What's not civilised is to hold America responsible for everything that happens in its borders. That's crap. Even if that were true, to respond with physical attacks and believe it's OK to attack people because you're upset at this thing, that's an improper reaction. The Muslim world needs to get out of that mindset.”
Two days before the memoir was released the Associated Press reported that the bounty on Mr. Rushdie, which was formerly at $2.8 million, was raided to $3.3 million.
The Associated Press reported that “15 Khordad Foundation, headed by Ayatollah Hassan Saneii, will pay the higher reward to whoever acts on the 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, issued by Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.”
Sanei, in a statement carried by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) said, “I am adding another $500,000 to the reward for killing Salman Rushdie, and anyone who carries out this sentence will receive the whole amount immediately," reported Reuters adding that in 1998, under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, Iran's government distanced itself from the Rushdie fatwa, but hardline groups regularly renew the call for Rushdie's death, saying Khomeini's decree is irrevocable and eternal.
Mr. Rushdie, brushed aside the threats. The Los Angeles Times reports that after hearing reports that an Iranian organization had increased the standing bounty on his head, author Salman Rushdie was nonplussed. "I'm not inclined to magnify this ugly bit of headline grabbing by paying it much attention," he told The Times through his publisher.
At a time when Mr. Rushdie ought to be celebrating the release of his film made by his friend Deepa Mehta, and the launch of his much celebrated memoir, Joseph Anton, it is grim to see the rising antagonism against him. However, to Mr. Rushdie, after 23 years in hiding, brushing these “distractions” away seem to have become second nature.