In a typical power play, a leading Ayatollah in Iran has again brought up the infamous fatwa that effectively sentences the writer Salman Rushdie to death for his book ‘The Satanic Verses.’ Ayatollah Hassan Sanei, quoted in the telegraph, said to a student newspaper in Iran that he was “adding another $500,000 to the reward and anyone who carries out this order will immediately receive the whole amount”. Seen by most as a move to seize on the widespread outcry against ‘Innocence of Muslims’, a badly made US film which insults the Prophet Mohammed, Ayatollah Sanei was also quoted as saying 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.”

Unlike Rushdie’s initial dealings with Iran’s Supreme Leader, support for the Indian born writer seems widespread. He himself released a statement through his publishers – “I’m not inclined to magnify this ugly bit of headline grabbing by paying it much attention.” The Rushdie issue is often brought up by more extremist elements in Iran to attack the moderates.

Finally the liberals have a little more teeth, whereas before editorials scathed Rushdie for ever writing his book; groups are now rushing to his support. Maybe the days of admiring the quiet intellectual have passed, with heroes as loud and angry as the late Christopher Hitchens, the public intellectual might see that a renewed attack on Rushdie is a renewed attack on free speech and thought everywhere and not another thing to be pushed out of mind with moral relativism.

…an insult that should not provoke violence…

Rushdie has said that another book like ‘The Satanic Verses’ would not be published today, not for literary reasons but for fear. In an interview with the Guardian he said “The writers of the French enlightenment had deliberately used blasphemy as a weapon, refusing to accept the powers of the Church to set limiting points on thought.” The idea of any church in Britain having the power to sentence a writer to death for asking questions surely seems morally reprehensible?

Respect for other cultures is not something to be sniffed at, of course, and ignoring ideas other than your own is simply ignorant, but revealed truth being unquestionable is an insult to your intelligence – an insult that should not provoke violence, but further discussion and further enlightenment.

…the leaders of a religion have little in common with the members of their faith…

It is unfortunate that, as is so often true, the leaders of a religion have little in common with the members of their faith, much as a statement by the Pope can be contrary to the beliefs held by many Catholics, I cannot believe that the vast majority of Muslims support the actions of the minority. Once again we are left with western orientalism, if a tiny mob reacts violently in a peaceful protest of thousands the media will report the mob as if they were the whole.

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Grew up in the Middle East, currently studying Arabic and Linguistics in central London. Write a lot...

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