From fatwa to fear: 30 years on from ‘The Satanic Verses’ affair

Feb 11, 2019 by

from Christian Concern:

In 1989, an Iranian ‘fatwa’ was issued calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie following the publication of his book, ‘The Satanic Verses’. 30 years on, Tim Dieppe looks into how this event has caused the fear of religious offence – particularly fear of appearing Islamophobic – to censure our freedom of speech and expression.

The fatwa

On 14th February 1989, the following announcement was made on Radio Tehran:

“We are from Allah and to Allah we shall return. I am informing all brave Muslims of the world that the author of The Satanic Verses, a text written, edited, and published against Islam, the Prophet of Islam, and the Qur’an, along with all the editors and publishers aware of its contents, are condemned to death.

I call on all valiant Muslims wherever they may be in the world to kill them without delay, so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth. And whoever is killed in this cause will be a martyr, Allah Willing. Meanwhile if someone has access to the author of the book but is incapable of carrying out the execution, he should inform the people so that he may be punished for his actions. May Allah’s blessing be upon you all.”

— Rouhollah al-Mousavi al-Khomeini.

This was how the famous fatwa was released. It immediately received international attention and was headline news right across the world. A foreign leader had issued a death sentence on a British citizen, no matter that he lived in Britain and had broken no British law. He said that British Muslims had a duty to kill him. Author Salman Rushdie had to go into hiding with 24-hour police protection for over a decade.

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