Iran reissues fatwa on Salman Rushdie as film protests spread
Ayatollah reinstates 1989 death sentence and raises bounty on novelist's head to $3.3m
AN IRANIAN ayatollah has reinstated the fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, saying the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, which has triggered a wave of violent protests across the Muslim world, would never have been made if Rushdie had been killed.
The move comes the day before the publication of Rushdie's memoir about the nine years in hiding forced upon him after the death sentence was first issued by the late Ayatollah Khomenei in 1989, in response to Rushdie's book, The Satanic Verses.
Now Ayatollah Hassan Sanei has said in a statement: "The film won't be the last insulting act as long as Imam Khomeini's historic order on executing the blasphemous Salman Rushdie is not carried out.
"If the imam's order was carried out, the further insults in the form of caricatures, articles and films would not have taken place. The impertinence of the grudge-filled enemies of Islam, which is occurring under the flag of the Great Satan, America and the racist Zionists, can only be blocked by the absolute administration of this Islamic order."
Ayatollah Sanei is the personal representative of Iran's Supreme Leader on a powerful state foundation which provides relief for the poor, according to The Daily Telegraph. The paper notes that it is unlikely he would have acted without higher approval. The Ayatollah says he is increasing the bounty on Rushdie's head by $500,000 to $3.3m with immediate effect.
Rushdie has been keeping a very high profile in the media in recent weeks, promoting the film of his celebrated book Midnight's Children and his new memoir, Joseph Anton, which is released tomorrow. The latter tells the story of his nine years in hiding living under the fatwa, which was withdrawn in 1998 by the reformist Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.
In an interview with The Guardian published today, Rushdie calls the US-made film Innocence of Muslims "a malevolent piece of garbage".
He continues: "The civilised response would be to say of the director: 'F**k 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."
He believes if he were to present a manuscript of a new novel more critical of Islam than The Satanic Verses to his agent today he would probably not be able to get it published.
As for whether Rushdie won the battle over The Satanic Verses, the author says he is not sure. "The book is still in print and the author wasn't suppressed so it was a victory in that sense," he explains. "But the fear and menaces have grown."
That was before news of the Ayatollah Sanei's resurrected fatwa.