Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Reapplying the Rushdie Rules

Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ascended to the Iranian presidency in 2005, he has overseen a resurgence of the revolutionary fanaticism of the Khomeini era. Under his leadership, Iran's already strict limits on intellectual freedom have been intensified. Now, in imitation of Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa against British novelist Salman Rushdie, Iranian clerics are again calling for the murder of a foreign writer. Reuters provides the details:

Last week, an Azeri court jailed journalist Rafika Tagi, who wrote an article in Azerbaijan's Senet newspaper illustrated by cartoons of the Prophet. The cartoons were originally published in Denmark and caused an outcry in the Muslim world earlier this year.

Tagi and the paper's editor were each jailed for two months.

"Whoever kills this Azeri writer who insulted the Prophet Mohammad, I will give him my house as a reward," Ayatollah Morteza Bani Fazl said in the northwestern city of Tabriz, Fars reported late on Monday.

(Emphasis added-DD)

As the article points out, the Rushdie fatwa is being cited as a precedent in calling for Tagi's murder:

Ayotallah Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari, another senior Shi'ite cleric, also said the Azeri writer deserved to be killed based on Khomeini's fatwa, Fars said.

"The sentence issued by Khomeini for Rushdie, could also be carried out against all those who insult Islam and the Prophet," said the cleric, who leads Friday prayers in Tabriz, which is close to the border with Azerbaijan.

In addition to sponsoring terrorism, the Iranian regime has a history of murdering writers and other dissidents, both within Iran and elsewhere. In 2005, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the regime's key paramilitary force, reaffirmed the validity of Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Among the former leaders of the IRGC is one Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Koenraad Elst has described how Khomeini's 1989 fatwa led to the "Rushdie Rules", a model for how radical Islamists could silence critics of their vision of Islam through violence and intimidation. It now appears that Iran under Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has every intention of enforcing the Rushdie Rules. The horrendous impact this will have on intellectual freedom will be felt well beyond Iran.


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