Ayatollah confirms fatwa on Rushdie

A FATWA against British author Salman Rushdie was reaffirmed by Iran's supreme spiritual leader yesterday in a message to all Muslim pilgrims. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Muslims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Rushdie was an apostate and that killing him was authorised by Islam.

The announcement, reported by Iranian state media, came during a tirade against "Western and Zionist capitalists" and US claims to be leading a war on terrorism. "They talk about respect towards all religions, but they support such a mahdour al-damm mortad as Salman Rushdie," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

In Islamic law, mortad is a reference to someone who has committed apostasy by leaving Islam. Mahdour al-damm is a term applying to someone whose blood may be shed with impunity.

British officials played down the remarks and stressed that the Iranian Government, which dissociated itself from the fatwa in 1998, had not changed its position. They pointed out that because the fatwa was issued in February 1989 by Iran's revolutionary founder and Ayatollah Khamenei's predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who has since died, it would always remain in existence.

"The original fatwa was issued by Ayatollah Khomeini shortly before he died. It can only be rescinded by the man who issued it or a higher authority, so in practice it will hold indefinitely. "Almost every time Ayatollah Khamenei gives a sermon he mentions Salman Rushdie in these terms and denounces him as a man who has insulted the name of the prophet and who can therefore be killed. It's just the standard rhetoric.

"The crucial thing is that the fatwa is no longer endorsed by the Iranian Government because before 1998 what we had was effectively a state-sponsored death sentence." The fatwa, or religious edict, calling for Rushdie's execution was issued because of alleged blasphemy and apostasy in his novel The Satanic Verses. An Iran-based religious foundation also put a pound stg. 1.4million ($3.5million) bounty on his head.

But under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who was elected in 1997, Iran's leadership has distanced itself from the order to kill Rushdie, who was born in Bombay to a Muslim family.

If necessary they will alert the author and police in New York, where Rushdie now lives.

Full story, thanks to The Australian

MathewK -

Yes, there is freedom and democracy in Iran, they are free to criticise the west and kill those who oppose/question Islam. One man wrote a book in 1989, one man, a book, talk about insecure. Imagine the pope was to take issue with all who opposed Christianity or wrote something critical of Christianity.

Almost 16 years later Rushdie still has to live in fear of his life, yet we are called upon to understand and accommodate and probably accept in the future.

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