While the Obama Administration has staked a great deal on moderates in the Iranian regime, it is hard to see much progress in the Islamic Republic. That was made clear this week with the news that forty state-run Iranian media outlets have jointly offered a new $600,000 bounty for the death of British Indian author Salman Rushdie. Ayatollah Khomeini, the First Supreme Leader of Iran, issued the fatwa against Rushdie on charges of blasphemy for his novel The Satanic Verses on 15 February, 1989. Ayatollah Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in 2005 in the hateful fatwa remains in full force not just against Rushdie but anyone associated with the book. The fatwa captures the continuing problem that Islamic countries have with basic free speech and free exercise rights.
The Islamic Republic’s blood-soaked understanding of the Koran has already racked up victims linked to the book. Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses, was stabbed to death and the Italian translator Ettore Capriolo survived being stabbed at his apartment in Milan. The novel’s Norwegian publisher was shot three times in the back and left for dead outside his home in Oslo. All of these hateful acts were viewed as triumphs of Islamic justice among Iranian hardliners.
The involvement of Iranian media in the most recent renewal of the death sentence is particularly distressful. To have “journalists” call for the murder of someone who merely publishes his views is an example of the grotesque logic found in the Islamic Republic.