On February 14, 1989, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
went on Radio Tehran to issue a public death warrant for the Indian-born novelist and British citizen Salman Rushdie
. The warrant was in the form of a fatwa, an Islamic religious ruling or scholarly decree pertaining to Islamic law, issued by a recognized authority. Khomeini decreed that Rushdie’s novel Satanic Verses
was a “blasphemy against Islam” for its portrayal of the prophet Muhammad, not to mention an uncomplimentary character who was a thinly veiled version of Khomeini himself. The fatwa was accompanied by a $2,000,000 bounty on Rushdie’s life. It was not an idle threat.
Rushdie was immediately put under police protection, and on March 7th Great Britain broke off diplomatic relations with Iran. Great Britain did not restore relations for nearly a decade. On August 3, 1989, a would be assassin named Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh blew up himself, as well as two floors of the Paddington Hotel in London, when he accidentally detonated the book-bomb he was making for Rushdie. He has a martyr’s shrine in Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra cemetery. On July 11, 1991, the book’s Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, was stabbed to death. Later that month the Italian language translator, Ettore Capriolo, was stabbed and seriously injured. The Norwegian publisher, William Nygaard, narrowly escaped an attempted assassination in 1993. And on July 2nd of that year, an angry mob surrounded a hotel in Sivas, Turkey where Aziz Nesin, the Turkish language translator, was attending a conference celebrating a 16th century poet; learning of his presence, the mob set fire to the hotel. Thirty-seven people died. Nesin escaped the fire, though he was set upon by firemen and seriously beaten.
Now, some of the same people and publications who have decried the fatwa as barbaric, and who have defended Rushdie in the name of democracy, tolerance, and freedom, are calling for the murder of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Continue reading Arm Chair Assassins