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Salman Rushdie Attack Recalls Murder of His Japanese Translator

TOKYO — Friday’s attack on Salman Rushdie in western New York state follows an earlier attack on those associated with his 1988 novel The Satanic Verse, including the Japanese translator who was killed in 1991. It sparked renewed interest in the attack.

Translator Hitoshi Igarashi, who spent five years teaching comparative Islamic culture at the University of Tsukuba, northeast of Tokyo, was stabbed to death that July at the age of 44. No arrests have been made and the crime remains unsolved. stay.

Igarashi said the Japanese version was published after Iran’s then-supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered Muslims to kill an Indian-born British writer over his portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. translated “Devil’s Verse” to

Rushdie, 75, who underwent surgery on Friday after being stabbed by an assailant in Chautauqua, New York, said he was “very distressed” at the news of Igarashi’s death in 1991.

Japanese police said at the time that there was no concrete evidence linking the attack to “satanic poetry.” However, according to news reports, the novel’s Japanese publisher received death threats from Islamic extremists, and Mr. Igarashi was protected by bodyguards for some time.

Publisher Shinsensha also faced protests at its Tokyo office in 1990, when a Pakistani citizen was arrested for attempting to assault a book promoter at a press conference that year.

Mr. Igarashi was killed as he left his office at the University of Tsukuba after a day of classes. His son, Chu Igarashi, told reporters years later that he was working on the translation of The Norms of Medicine, a medieval medical book by Islamic physician and philosopher Ibn Sina.

A janitor found Igarashi’s body near an elevator with cuts on his neck, face and hands, police said. According to Weekly Asahi, the brown leather bag Igarashi was carrying had slash marks, suggesting he was trying to defend himself during the attack.

He had a wife, Masako Igarashi, and two children.

Speculation about the killing has circulated in the Japanese news media for years. In his 1998 report by The Daily Shincho, the most likely theory was that investigators had easily pinpointed a Bangladeshi student at the University of Tsukuba as a suspect, but had been told by a senior official concerned about potential repercussions for the Japanese government. It was said that it was withdrawn under pressure. relationship with Islamic State. No firm evidence for that theory has ever emerged.

Mr. Igarashi may be the only person killed for working with Mr. Rushdie. Several others survived the threat, including Ettore Capriolo, an Italian translator of Satanic Verses, who was stabbed in his Milan apartment just days before the attack on Mr. Igarashi.

In July 1993, Turkish novelist Aziz Nesin published a translated excerpt from The Satanic Verse in a local newspaper, but narrowly escaped death when a mob of militants attacked him. rice field. Hotel in eastern Turkey burns down where he was staying trying to kill him.

Nesin, then 78, used a firefighter’s ladder to escape the building. But 37 others, intellectuals who had gathered at the hotel to discuss ways to promote secularism, perished in the flames. A Turkish court subsequently sentenced 33 of him to death for his role in the raid.

In October 1993, William Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher of Satanic Verse, was shot three times outside his home in Oslo. he made a full recovery reprint a book in rebellion.

In 2018, Norwegian police prosecuted the case two days before the deadline that would have stopped the prosecution. He declined to specify the suspect’s name or the number of people charged.

Regarding Igarashi’s murder, prescription The case expired in 2006, creating a general sense of disappointment with no closure, or reflection on what the murder meant to the nation.

“Had the perpetrators been arrested, it might have spurred a debate about freedom of religion and speech,” said Sachi Sakanashi, a researcher at the Institute of Energy Economics in Tokyo who specializes in Iranian politics. Stated. “But it didn’t.”

In 2009, the professor’s widow, Masako Igarashi, was taken from the police station as evidence, including a wallet and glasses that had been in custody for a long time, according to Shukan Asahi.

Last year, however, police officials told the Mainichi Shimbun that they were continuing to investigate Igarashi’s murder in the hope that the statute of limitations would not apply if the perpetrators were found to have fled the country.

Igarashi, a high school principal and scholar of comparative Japanese literature, told the newspaper he holds out hope of finding justice.

“As times change, the possibility of a sudden breakthrough is not zero,” he told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Hida Hikari Report from Tokyo, Mike Ives I am from Seoul.

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