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Iran and it’s problems with Salman Rushdie and satanic verses

Iran and it’s problems with Salman Rushdie

  • The Satanic Verses is based on a hotly debated early Islamic legend.
  • Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reminds his supporters that the decision against Rushdie was “firm and irrevocable”.
  • Ayatollah Ali Montazeri reportedly objected to the order and was put under house arrest.

Salman Rushdie believed he had gained his freedom over ten years after being forced into hiding. The author had been residing in London with the utmost secrecy and security. However, the Iranian administration of President Mohammad Khatami made a public statement distancing itself from the Islamic edict calling for his assassination in 1998.

The action was a component of a historic deal with the UK. In exchange for improved diplomatic ties between London and Tehran, Iran publicly pledged not to campaign for Rushdie’s assassination.

“Well, it looks like it’s over,” Rushdie told reporters at the time. “It means everything. It means freedom.”

There was a catch, though. Because Ruhollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of Iran, had passed away, the homicidal 1989 decision concerning Salman Rushdie’s satirical book The Satanic Verses could not be legally overturned. At least that’s what Rushdie claims in his memoir to have been informed.

It was a skillfully designed ambiguity that, in the subsequent years, came to define Iran’s position on this and many other problems. The secretary general of Iran-backed Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, expressed public regret in 2006 that the fatwa against the author had not been carried out, stating that it had given others licence to “insult” the Prophet Mohammed.

In a tweet that resulted in the deletion of his account in 2019, Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reminded his supporters that the decision against Rushdie was “firm and irrevocable.” Still tweeting from other accounts is Khamenei.

An post applauding the fatwa was released by Iran Online four months before Rushdie was viciously killed on Friday at a gathering in New York.

Iran seems determined to keep holding up the executioner’s sword in front of Rushdie during the entire ordeal.

Whatever its intentions, Iran is openly exploiting the sensitive nature of some Muslims. The Satanic Verses is based on a hotly debated early Islamic legend that says Satan briefly interfered with the divine revelations to the Prophet Mohammed. Iran’s leaders didn’t immediately prohibit the book; they delayed taking action until protests it sparked in Pakistan many months later.

The resulting fatwa turned out to be advantageous politically. In the views of Islamist fanatics all over the Muslim world, including Sunnis, it elevated Khomeini. However, it had its vocal Muslim and local critics then as it has now.

Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s closest ally at the time, reportedly objected to the order, according to Robin Wright of The New Yorker. In 1997, Montazeri, who also opposed Iran’s dissidents being executed in large numbers, lost the support of the government and was put under house arrest.

The campaign against Rushdie was also criticised in a 1989 letter signed by Arab and Muslim academics and published in The New York Review of Books.

The letter, which was signed by five eminent thinkers, including the late Palestinian-American philosopher Edward Said and the late Indian-born poet Aga Shahid Ali, said, “This campaign is done in the name of Islam, but none of it does Islam any honour.

The writers of the letter continued, “Certainly Muslims and others are right to complain against The Satanic Verses if they feel the book offends their faith and cultural sensibilities. But it is actually contrary to Islamic traditions of knowledge and tolerance to extend protest and debate into the arena of intolerant violence.

In Rushdie’s autobiography Joseph Anton, the Mumbai-born author is seen openly doubting if the London-Tehran agreement in 1998 was “selling out” to him just days after he pronounced the threats against his life to be “over.” During his time in hiding, he used the pseudonym Joseph Anton, and he speaks of himself in the third person throughout the book.

He chose to leave his life in hiding and move to New York, where he would eventually be viciously attacked in front of horrified witnesses, while knowing that the death warrant would continue to hover over his head.

Authorities identified Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old New Jersey resident, as the culprit in the attack from last week.
On Saturday, Matar entered a not guilty plea to charges including attempted second-degree murder.

Iran, as usual, denied any involvement in the assault and said Rushdie and his “supporters” were solely to blame for their own actions. In comments to CNN, Hezbollah also claimed to be unaware of the attacker and the scheme.

Rushdie described the 1998 choice in his memoir as “nothing was ever flawless, but there was a level of imperfection that was hard to tolerate.” Rushdie continued, referring to himself, “still, he stayed determined.” “He had to regain control over his life. He had to stop waiting for the “imperfection factor” to decrease to a manageable level.”

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