FRANKFURT: The world’s biggest book fair opens on Wednesday under a cloud of controversy with Iran calling on all Muslim nations to boycott the exhibition because author Salman Rushdie has been invited to speak.
Organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair defended the choice, saying freedom of expression was a key theme at this year’s gathering of writers and publishers, 10 months after Islamists marched into the Paris office of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and gunned down its editorial team.
“We feel a strong politicalization this year and freedom of expression will be a key theme,” said Juergen Boos, director of the exhibition.
The show promises to be controversial even before its doors open, with a press conference on Tuesday to be headlined by Rushdie, who has a death warrant on his head over his 1989 book “The Satanic Verses.”
Iran’s then supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa saying the British author should be killed, forcing Rushdie to go into hiding and the British government placed the writer under police protection.
Tehran on Wednesday said it was boycotting the Frankfurt fair, because it had “under the pretext of freedom of expression, invited a person who is hated in the Islamic world and created the opportunity for Salman Rushdie to make a speech.”
It also urged other Muslim nations to join its boycott.