The British author Salman Rushdie, who was the object of a homicidal fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini some 33 years ago, has been attacked and apparently stabbed in the neck at a venue in New York.
The 75-year-old was flown to hospital while a video showed a man being led away by security in front of a shocked auditorium at the Chautauqua Institution, where he had been due to give a speech.
In 1989, shortly before his death, Khomeini called on “all brave Muslims” to kill Rushdie for content he objected to in a novel he had published the previous year, The Satanic Verses.
The fatwa forced Rushdie into hiding for almost 10 years while several of the book's translators and publishers were killed in reprisal attacks by fanatics.
The author has since become a vocal campaigner for freedom of expression. He is a former president of PEN America, which said on Friday it was “reeling from shock and horror” at the attack.
CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement: “We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil.”
Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who is regarded by many Shia Muslims as the first source of emulation on Islamic law, has never withdrawn Khomeini’s original fatwa. On the contrary; in May 2019 he tweeted that the incitement to murder was “solid and irrevocable”, leading to his temporary suspension from the platform.
Other arms of the Iranian state have continued to back the fatwa decades after it was issued. In 2012, the parastatal 15 Khordad Foundation pledged $3.3 million to anyone who would kill Rushdie. Another $600,000 was added to the bounty in 2016.
Individual officials who originally backed the fatwa have also refused to retract their statements years down the line. Ataollah Mohajerani, who was Minister of Culture under Mohammad Khatami, wrote an entire book in praise of it in 1989, which was translated into several other languages. Today he lives in London and claims to advocate for religious tolerance. He has never publicly acknowledged the book.
You can read some of IranWire’s past coverage of the fatwa and its fallout below.