Friday, February 18, 2005

Fatwa valid- Rushdie still faces execution

You've gotta wonder. Does Rushdie worry about this? After all, he did a cameo in the hugely successful movie, "Bridget Jones's Diary", and is a top-rated literary critic in New York, pretty much living the American dream, far away from Iran.

TEHRAN -- British novelist Salman Rushdie still faces the "divine verdict" of execution, a hardline Iranian daily said on Sunday in a special issue marking the 16th anniversary of the death sentence ordered by revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

"A divine verdict does not lose its value with time," the daily said in the eight-page supplement marking Monday's anniversary of the fatwa, or religious decree, which disrupted Iran's relations with the European Union through the 1990s.

The paper carried a cartoon depicting the author of "The Satanic Verses" as Satan.

It highlighted comments made by Khomenei's successor as supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last month that he still believed Rushdie deserved to die.

"They talk of respect for all religions but they support an apostate worthy of death like Rushdie," Khamenei complained in a message to Iranian pilgrims on January 19.

The daily's diatribe echoed a statement from Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards on Saturday.

"Muslims have never accepted insults against their sacred values," the guards said. "The day will come when they will punish the apostate Rushdie for his scandalous acts and insults against the Koran and the Prophet [Mohammed]."

Under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who was elected in 1997, Iran's leadership distanced itself from the order to kill Rushdie, born in Bombay, India, to a Muslim family.

In 1998 foreign minister Kamal Kharazi promised his then-British counterpart Robin Cook that Iran would do nothing to implement the fatwa, despite a $2.8 million bounty placed on Rushdie's head by a Tehran-based foundation.

The pledge eased nearly a decade of torn relations with the European Union but sparked a chorus of protest from hardliners.

On last year's anniversary, the 15th of Khordad Foundation - the charitable trust that offered the original bounty - issued a statement saying that the fatwa remained valid.

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