Khomeini Issues ‘Satanic Verses’ Fatwa
The 14th of February 1989 AD
If ever there was a case that demonstrated the difficulty of a meeting of the minds between the Muslim world and the liberal West it was the Satanic Verses episode. In interview after interview Iranian diplomats and politicians were contemptuous of the free speech the West holds dear. The very fatwa issued by the Ayatollah showed the status of that religious leader above anything that Europeans would understand as a legal system. Yet it also showed the problems the West has with understanding the position of traditional societies built around religion, a situation we left long ago.
Parts of Salman Rushdie ’s book were viewed as a direct insult to the Prophet by Iran, and thereafter by other Muslim nations. The Ayatollah made assassinating Rushdie a holy act for his followers and by extension other Muslims. Again for most in the West ‘holy murder’ was an incomprehensible paradox. It is said that a bomber blown up in London when his device exploded prematurely in the summer of 1989 had been on a mission to kill the author. Rushdie lived under police protection for several years, and given the fatwa can supposedly only be withdrawn by the issuer, in this case long dead, he must doubtless still be very careful of his security.
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