The Satanic Verses controversy

The Satanic Verses controversy

"The Satanic Verses" controversy refers to the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses". In particular it involves the novel's alleged blasphemy or unbelief; the 1989 fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie; and the killings, attempted killings, and bombings that resulted from Muslim anger over the novel.

The controversy was notable for being the first time in modern times a government had publicly called for the killing of a private individual in a foreign country; and the first time that a book, or calls for a book's censorship, caused an international diplomatic crisis. Pipes, 1990, p.233]

The issue divided "Muslim from Westerners along the fault line of culture", [Pipes, (1990), p.133] pitting the core Western value of freedom of expression – that no one "should be killed, or face a serious threat of being killed, for what they say or write" [ [,,2109613,00.html No ifs and no buts] ] – against the core belief of many Muslims – that no one should be free to "insult and malign Muslims" by disparaging the "honour of the Prophet" Muhammad. [ Pakistan blasts Rushdie honour] ]


Previous controversies

Even before the publication of "The Satanic Verses," the books of Salman Rushdie stoked controversy. Rushdie himself saw his role as a writer "including the function of antagonist to the state." Rushdie, Salman, "Jaguar Smile"; New York: Viking, 1987, p.50] Others made their own criticisms:

Rushdie is a disaffected intellectual who criticizes or makes fun of nearly everything. One book attacks the Gandhis and modern India; another reviles the leadership in Pakistan; a third takes on American foreign policy; the fourth one blasts fundamentalist Islam and Britain. The assault comes easily ..." [Pipes, (1990), p.49]

His second book "Midnight's Children" angered Indira Gandhi because it seemed to suggest "that Mrs. Gandhi was responsible for the death of her husband through neglect."cite book|title=Text and Trauma: An East-West Primer |author=Ian Richard Netton|date=1996|publisher=Routledge Curzon|location=Richmond, UK] His 1983 novel "Shame" "took an aim on Pakistan, its political characters, its culture and its religion. … [it covered] a central episode in Pakistan’s internal life, which portrays as a family squabble between Iskander Harappa (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) and his successor and executioner Raza Hyder (Zia ul-Haq). …'The Virgin Ironpants'…has been identified as Benazir Bhutto, a Prime Minister of Pakistan."

Positions Rushdie took as a committed leftist prior to the publishing of his book were the source of some controversy but more irony. He defended many of those who later attacked him, and vice-versa. Rushdie forcefully denounced the Shah's government and supported the Islamic Revolution of Iran, at least in its early stages. He condemned the U.S. bombing raid on Tripoli in 1986 but found himself threatened by Libya's leader Muammar al-Gaddafi three years later. [Pipes, (1990), p.236] He wrote a book bitterly critical of U.S. foreign policy in general and its war in Nicaragua in particular, for example calling the United States government, "the bandit posing as sheriff." [Rushdie, "Jaguar Smile," Viking, 1987] After the Ayatollah's fatwa however, he was accused by Iranian government of being "an inferior CIA agent". ["`The book's author is in England but the real supporter is the United States`" - Interior Minister Mohtashemi (IRNA Feb. 17, 1989) "An Iranian government statement called Rushdie `an inferior CIA agent` and referred to the book as a `provocative American deed`." (IRNA Feb. 14, 1989) (Pipes, 1990, p.129)] A few years earlier, an official jury appointed by a ministry of the Iranian Islamic government had bestowed an award on the Persian translation of Rushdie's book "Shame," perhaps the only time any government awarded Rushdie's work a prize. [Pipes, (1990), p.49]

Controversial elements of "The Satanic Verses"

Aside from the reference in the title, most of the plot of the book has nothing to do with Islam but is taken up with the story of two Indians and their immigration to Britain and return to India. This notwithstanding, "vehement protest against Rushdie’s book" started with its title, "which Muslims found incredibly sacrilegious," and took to mean the book's author claimed verses of the Qur’an, in fact the whole book, was "the work of the Devil."cite book|title=Islam and Postcolonial Narrative|author=John D. Erickson|publisher=Cambridge University Press|location=Cambridge, UK|date=1998]

The title refers to an alleged incident in the ministry of the Prophet Muhammad where verses for the Qur'an were allegedly spoken by Muhammad as part of the Qur'an and then withdrawn on the grounds that the devil had sent them and deceived Muhammad into thinking they came from God. These "Satanic Verses" are described by Ibn Ishaq in the first biography of Muhammad, and form a subplot of the novel. The disputed verses allowed for prayers of intercession to be made to three Pagan Meccan goddesses: Allat, Uzza, and Manah - a flagrant violation of the Islamic principle of monotheism.

The phrase Arab historians and later Muslims used to describe this incident, however, was not 'Satanic verses,' but "gharaniq" ("birds") verses.The phrase 'Satanic verses' was unknown to Muslims. It was coined by Western academics specializing in studying Middle Eastern culture (most notably William Montgomery Watt's "Muhammed, Prophet and Statesman," according to scholar Daniel Pipes. When the title of the book was translated into Arabic, "verses" was translated as "ayat," a term applied not for scriptural verses in general, but solely to the verses of the Qur’an. Hence Muslims who read that translation assumed Rushdie was claiming the Qur'an was Satanic.

Other controversial elements of the work enumerated by author and Islamic studies scholar Anthony McRoy include the name of a prophet modeled on Muhammad who "is called Mahound, the Crusader derogatory term for Muhammad. The holy city of Mecca becomes Jahilia, a term denoting the pagan 'time of ignorance' before Islam. A film star becomes the Angel Gibreel (Gabriel), whilst someone named Saladin, after the great Muslim hero of the Crusades, becomes a devil. A follower of Mahound is called Bilal, one of the Prophet's 'Companions', a group equivalent to the Apostles in Christianity. One fanatical Indian girl who leads her village on a fatal pilgrimage is called Ayesha, youngest wife of Muhammad.

Most offensive to Muslims, the city’s brothel is staffed by prostitutes who take the names of Muhammad’s wives. [Pipes, (1990), p.65] Since Muslims believe that the wives of the Prophet are 'the Mothers of all Believers', they esteem them."cite web|title=Why Muslims feel angry about the Rushdie knighthood|date=1st July 2007|author=Anthony McRoy|url=]

Other issues many Muslim have found offensive include:
*Abraham, whom Muslims revere as a holy prophet, is called a "bastard", for casting Hagar and Ishmael in the desert.cite journal
author = Michael M. J. Fischer; Mehdi Abedi
title = Bombay Talkies, the Word and the World: Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses
journal = Cultural Anthropology
volume = 5
issue = 2
pages = 124–132
date = May, 1990
*A character in the book named Salman the Persian who serves as one of the Prophet's scribes, an apparent takeoff on the story found in a Tafsir (Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta'wil) of a Meccan convert by the name of Ibn Abi Sarh, who left Islam after the Prophet failed to notice small changes he had made in the dictation of the Qur'an. [ [ Ibn Abi Sarh] ] Contemporary Muslims argue accounts of the story are unreliable, and in any case Ibn Abi Sarh later reconverted and became a good Muslim again after being captured and spared the sword for his apostasy. [ [ Abdullah Ibn Sad Ibn Abi Sarh: Where Is the Truth?] ] Salman the Persian is also the name of one of the companions of the Prophet, another potential source of offense.

*In the book the prophet's wife Ayesha tells him: "Your God certainly jumps to it when you need him to fix things up for you", an apparent paraphrasing of Ayesha's complaint in a hadith, "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires." [(Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 311)] This remark came after a verse in the Qur’an (33.51) was revealed to the Prophet that permitted him to make conjugal visits to whichever of his wives he so choose, rather than each having their turn. [Narrated Ayesha:
I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah’s Apostle and I used to say, "Can a lady give herself (to a man)?" But when Allah revealed: "You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily)." (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 311) from: [ The Dissatisfaction of Muhammad’s Wives]
] Contemporary Muslims argue there is nothing improper about a Rasul or Messenger of God receiving exceptional treatment in God's law.

Other more general issues in the book that have angered, or might anger Muslims include:
*The complaint in the book by one of Mahound's companions : "rules about every damn thing, if a man farts let him turn his face to the wind, a rule about which hand to use for the purpose of cleaning one's behind ...." This mixes up "Islamic law with its opposite and with the author's whimsy." [Pipes, 1990, p.65]
*As the prophet of Rushdie's novel lies dying, he is visited by the Goddess al-Lat, indicating either that al-Lat exists or the prophet thought she did.
*The angel "Gibreel's vision of the Supreme Being" is described as "not abstract in the least. He saw, sitting on the bed, a man of about the same age as himself," balding, wearing glasses and "seeming to suffer from dandruff." [Pipes, 1990, p.67]
*Regarding communalist violence in India, often religious in nature, a character in the book complains: "Fact is, religious faith, which encodes the highest aspirations of human race, is now, in our country, the servant of lowest instincts, and God is the creature of evil." [Pipes, 1990, p.67]

Early reaction

Before the publication of "The Satanic Verses" Rushdie and his publisher received "warnings from the publisher’s editorial consultant" that the book might be controversial. Later Rushdie would reflect upon the time when the book was about to be published while speaking to an interviewer, he said "I expected a few mullahs would be offended, call me names, and then I could defend myself in public… I honestly never expected anything like this."

The Satanic Verses was published by Viking Penguin on September 26, 1988. Upon its publication the book garnered considerable critical acclaim in the author's home, the United Kingdom. On November 8, 1988 it received the Whitbread Award for novel of the year. worth £20,000 [Pipes, 1990, p.42] According to one observer, "almost all the British book reviewers" were unaware of the book's connection to Islam because Rushdie has used the name Mahound instead of Muhammad for his chapter on Islam. [Pipes, 1990), p.65]

Muslim anger

In Islamic communities the novel began causing controversy almost at once because of what some Muslims considered blasphemous references. By October 1988 letters and phone calls began to come into Viking Penguin from Muslims angry with the book and demanding it be withdrawn. Before the end of the month the book was banned in India. In November 1988 it was also banned in Bangladesh, Sudan, and South Africa. By December 1988 it was also banned in Sri Lanka. March 1989 saw it banned in Kenya, Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, and Singapore. The last nation which banned the book was Venezuela in June 1989.

In the United States, the FBI was notified of 78 threats to bookstores in early March 1989, thought to be a small proportion of the total number. B. Dalton bookstore chain received 30 threats in less than three hours. Bombings of book stores included two in Berkeley California. But the United Kingdom was the country where violence against bookstores occurred most often and persisted the longest. Two large Charing Cross Road London bookstores (Collets and Dillons) were bombed on April 9. In May, explosions went off in the town of High Wycombe and again in London, on King's Road. Other bombings include one at a large London department store (Liberty's), in connection with the Penguin Bookshop inside the store, and at the Penguin store in York. Unexploded devices were found at Penguin stores in Guildford, Nottingham, and Peterborough.

The bombings meant that hardly a single bookstore sold Rushdie's novel openly in the UK. In the United States, it was unavailable in about one-third of the bookstores. In many others which carried the book, it was kept under the counter. [Pipes, (1990) p.169-171]

Explanation of different reactions


The passionate international rage of Muslims towards the book surprised many because the book was written in English, not Arabic, Urdu, Persian or other languages most Muslims could read; it was never published or even sold in the countries where most Muslims lived; and was a work of fiction -- a demanding, densely-written novel unlikely to appeal to the average reader. [Pipes, (1990) p.85]

Some of the explanations for the unprecedented rage unleashed against the book were that:
*Rushdie was living in the West and ought to be setting a good example for Islam and not siding "with the Orientalists." [Syed Ali Ashraf, writing in "Impact International," Oct 28, 1988]
*Translations of the book's title and some of the text into Urdu, Arabic and Persian, made the book sound more offensive than it was. The phrase "verses" was translated as "ayat", a term used only for verses of the Qur'an, leading Muslims to believe Rushdie's book called the Qur'an itself satanic, rather than two excised verses.
*Misinformation. Many outraged Muslims believed the book to say things it did not, such as: "Rushdie has portrayed the prophet of Islam as a brothel keeper." [ad by the Birmingham Central Mosque in British newspapers] "Rushdie accuses the prophet, particularly Muhammad of being like prostitutes." [Dawud Assad, president of the U.S. Council of Masajid quoted in "Trenton Times", February 21, 1989] "all who pray are sons of whores" [a young French Muslim quoted in "Le Nouvel Observateur, March 23, 1989] "The Prophet's wives are portrayed as women of the street, his homes as a public brothel and his companions as bandits." [M. Rafiqul Islam, "The Rushdie Affair: A Conflict of Rights" unpublished manuscript, April 1989, p.3] They had not read the book since they believed it to be against Islam and depended on rumour instead.
*Belief that fictional elements of the novel were not flights of imagination but lies, due to unfamiliarity among many in or from the Middle East with the concept of fiction or of the novel. This was exemplified by numerous complaints of the lack of "accuracy" in the book: That it was "neither a critical appraisal nor a piece of historical research," [Mir Husayn Musavi, prime minister of Iran, quoted on Radio Tehran February 21, 1989] that the novel failed to rely on "scientific and logical arguments," [(Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, Agence France Press, February 27, 1989)] its "lack of scientific, accurate or objective methods of research," [(Shaykh Ahmad Kaftaru, mufti of the Syrian Arab Republic, source: Syrian Arab News Agency, March 1, 1989] "unfounded lies," not being "serious or scientific," [Religious affairs director of Turkish government, Mustafa Sait Yazicioglu, Radio Ankara March 14, 1989] "a total distortion of historical facts," [Sayed M. Syeed, secretary general of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists in the United States, Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 14, 1989] being "not at all an objective or scientific opinion." [Libyan ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights]
*Unfamiliarity with the concept of free speech. The belief among many Muslims in or from the Middle East that every country "has ... laws that prohibits any publications or utterances that tend to ridicule or defame religion." [ editorial in "Jordan Times", March 5, 1989] ] It followed that permission to publish a book that ridiculed or defamed Islam showed an anti-Islamic bias in those countries that permit publication. Although not enforced, Britain has, or had, laws prohibiting blasphemy against the Christian religion.
*The belief among Islamist Muslims that Britain, America and other Western countries are engaged in a war against Islam and what might on the surface appear to be the product of the imagination of an individual iconoclast author was actually a conspiracy on a national or transnational scale. Then Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, for example, explained the alleged historical roots of the Rushdie book in a broadcast on Radio Tehran:


Whoever is familiar with the history of colonialism and the Islamic world knows that whenever they wanted to get a foothold in a place, the first thing they did in order to clear their paths -- whether overtly or covertly -- was to undermine the people's genuine Islamic morals. broadcast Radio Tehran, March 7, 1989 quoted in Pipes, (1990), p.124-5]
and claimed an unnamed British foreign secretary once told the British parliament, `So long as the Qur'an is revered by Muslims, we will not be able to consolidate a foothold among the Muslims.` broadcast Radio Tehran, March 7, 1989 quoted in Pipes, (1990), p.124-5]

West and intellectual

Despite passionate intensity of Muslim feeling on the issue, and the susceptibility of democracies to pressure by determined interest groups, [ [ NRA Overwhelming 95% Success Rate Nationwide in 2004 election] ] no Western government banned "the Satanic Verses." Explanations as to why Westerners didn't share Muslim views but sometimes did not understand them include:

*The inability of many if not most Westerners to be shocked by ridicule of religious figures: "Taboo and sacrilege are virtually dead in the West. Blaspheme is an old story and can no longer shock." [Pipes, (1990) p.108] Examples of movies and books that aroused little or no protest in the west despite their blaspheme: "The Last Temptation of Christ", which portrays sexual longing by Jesus; "The Life of Brian", with its satire of Jesus or Messiahs-in-general; Joseph Heller's "God Knows", which turned "Biblical stories into pornographic fare"; [Pipes, (1990) p.108, 118-9] Even the "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", a book that was not only offensive and untrue but arguably very dangerous, having inspired killing of Jews in Russia and contributed to Nazi ideology, was "freely available in the west". [Pipes, (1990) p.108, 118-9]

*The idea widely accepted among writers that provocation in literature is not a right but is a duty, an important calling: "it is perhaps in the nature of modern art to be offensive ... in this century if we are not willing to risk giving offense, we have no claim to the title of artists." [John Updike, "Wall Street Journal", August 10, 1989] Rushdie himself said: "I had spent my entire life as a writer in opposition, and indeed conceived the writer's role as including the function of antagonist to the state." [Rushdie, Salman, "Jaguar Smile," p.50]

The last point also explains why one of the few groups to speak out in Muslim countries against Khomeini and for Rushdie's right to publish his book were other writers. ["The Importance of Being Earnest About Salman Rushdie" by Sadeq al-`Azm, in M.D. Fletcher, "Reading Rushdie: Perspectives on the Fiction of Salman Rushdie," Amsterdam, Rodopi B.V., 1994] Nobel prize winners Wole Soyinka of Nigeria and Naguib Mahfouz of Egypt, both attacked Khomeini, and both received death threats as a result. [Pipes, (1990), p.148, 175]

Some writers did criticize Rushdie. British children's author Roald Dahl, called Rushdie's book sensationalist and Rushdie "a dangerous opportunist". ["The Daily News"dn, March 1, 1989]

Western religious figures

Most religious figures in the United States and United Kingdom shared the aversion to blasphemy of pious Muslims (if not as intensely) and did not defend Rushdie like their secular compatriots. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, suggested that the British laws of blasphemy be extended to cover other religions other than Christianity."Fact|date=July 2008. Born-again ex-president Jimmy Carter wrote about the need to be "sensitive to the concern and anger" of Muslims and thought severing diplomatic relations with Iran would be an "overreaction." [Jimmy Carter, "Rushdie's Book Is an Insult," New York Times, March 5, 1989] Some Jewish rabbis, such as Immanuel Jakobovits, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, opposed the book's publishing. ["The Times", March 4, 1989]

Some saw the response as part of an evolution in the meaning of blasphemy away from a crime against God, toward something more temporal.

Today we are concerned for our pain and sometimes, for other people's. Blasphemy has become an offense against the faithful -- in much the same way as pornography is an offense against the innocent and the virtuous. Given this meaning, blasphemy is an ecumenical crime and so it is not surprising ... that Christians and Jews should join Muslims in calling Salman Rushdie's [book] a blasphemous book [Michael Walzer, "The Sins of Salman," "The New Republic," April 10, 1989]

Some non-religious westerners also spoke out against the book. ["International Herald Tribune", July 4, 2007] Former United States president Jimmy Carter, while condemning the threats and fatwa against Rushdie, stated, "we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated and are suffering in restrained silence the added embarrassment of the Ayatollah's irresponsibility." He also held that Rushdie must have been aware of the response his book would evoke: "The author, a well-versed analyst of Moslem beliefs, must have anticipated a horrified reaction throughout the Islamic world." ["International Herald Tribune", July 4, 2007]

Fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini

While there was already a considerable amount of protest by Muslims in the first months after the book's publishing, the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, created a major international incident.

On February 14, 1989, Khomeini, a Shi'a Muslim scholar, issued a fatwa calling for the death of Rushdie and his publishers. Khomeini is thought to have issued the fatwa after hearing about a 10,000-strong protest against Rushdie and his book in Islamabad, Pakistan, where six protesters were killed in an attack on the American Cultural Center.

Broadcast on Iranian radio, the judgement read:

In the name of God the Almighty. We belong to God and to Him we shall return. I would like to inform all intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book "Satanic Verses", which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qor'an, and those publishers who were aware of its contents, are sentenced to death.

I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, where they find them, so that no one will dare to insult the Islamic sanctities. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing.

In addition, if anyone has access to the author of the book but does not possess the power to execute him, he should point him out to the people so that he may be punished for his actions. May God's blessing be on you all. Rullah Musavi al-Khomeini. [cite news|title=Ayatollah sentences author to death|language=English|publisher=BBC|date=1989-02-14|url=|accessdate=2007-01-22] Failed verification|date=July 2008

Although Khomeini did not give the legal reasoning for his judgement, it is thought to be based on the ninth chapter of the Qur’an, called At-Tawba, verse 61: “And those who annoy the Messenger of Allah shall have a grievous punishment.”cite book|title=The Resilience of Conservative Religion: The Case of Popular, Conservative Protestant Congregations|author=Joseph Bernard Tamney|publisher=The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge| location=Cambridge, UK|date=2002]

Several days after the "fatwa" was declared Iranian officials offered a bounty for the killing of Rushdie, who was thus forced to live under police protection for the next nine years. On 7 March 1989, the United Kingdom and Iran broke diplomatic relations over the Rushdie controversy.

In the mean time there were several attacks on those involved in the publishing of the book and "were aware" of its "contents." Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the book "The Satanic Verses", was stabbed to death on July 11, 1991. Two other translators of the book survived attempted assassinations. [" [ Japanese Translator of Rushdie Book Found Slain] ", WEISMAN, Steven R., July 13 1991.] A spokesperson for the "Pakistan Association in Japan" told the press that "the murder was completely 100 percent connected with the book...Today we have been congratulating each other. Everyone was really happy."

Ettore Capriolo, the Italian language translator, was seriously injured in a stabbing the same month as his Japanese counterpart. William Nygaard, the publisher in Norway, barely survived an attempted assassination in Oslo in October 1993. One planned attack on Rushdie failed when the would-be bomber, Mustafa Mahmoud, blew himself up along with two floors of a central London hotel. see|Salman Rushdie#The_failed_assassination_attempt_and_Hezbollah.27s_comments

Muslim communities in several nations held public rallies in which copies of the book were burned.

Rushdie's apology and reaction

Rushdie's apology

Taking a cue from Iranian President Ali Khamene'i (a former "favourite pupil" [ [ Biography of H. E. Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei] ] and long-time lieutenant of Khomeini), who suggested that if Rushdie "apologizes and disowns the book, people may forgive him", Rushdie issued "a carefully worded statement" the next day regretting

profoundly the distress the publication has occasioned to the sincere followers of Islam. Living as we do in a world of many faiths, this experience has served to remind us that we must all be conscious of the sensibilities of others. [from Moin, "Khomeini", (2001), p.284, (Issued 18 February, Obtained by Baqer Moin from the Archbishop of Canterbury's aides.)] ]

This "was relayed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran via official channels before being released to the press."

Refusal of Rushdie's apology

February 19 Khomeini's office replied

The imperialist foreign media falsely alleged that the officials of the Islamic Republic have said the sentence of death on the author of "The Satanic Verses" will be retracted if he repents. Imam Khomeini has said:

This is denied 100%. Even if Salman Rushdie repents and become the most pious man of all time, it is incumbent on every Muslim to employ everything he has got, his life and wealth, to send him to Hell.

The Imam added:

If a non-Muslim becomes aware of Rushdie's whereabouts and has the ability to execute him quicker than Muslims, it is incumbent on Muslims to pay a reward or a fee in return for this action. [Moin, "Khomeini", (2001), p.284 ]

Khomeini's interpretation of the Islamic law that led him to refuse the apology follows the same line of reasoning as the influential sixth-century Muslim jurist Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i. In Al-Risala (Maliki Manual) 37.19 "Crimes Against Islam", Shafi`i ruled that an "apostate is also killed unless he repents... Whoever abuses the Messenger of God … is to be executed, and his repentance is not accepted."

upport for Khomeini's fatwa

In Britain, several Muslim leaders endorsed Khomeini's decision, some even swearing to carry out the death sentence. The Union of Islamic Students` Associations in Europe issued a statement offering its services to Khomeini. Non-Muslims were struck and alarmed by the fact that many death threats were not anonymous. One London property developer, for example told reporters, "If I see him, I will kill him straight away. Take my name and address. One day I will kill him." ["Newsweek", February 27, 1989] This was despite the fact that such offers and threats were incitement to murder, and as such illegal. [Pipes, (1990), p.182-3] . Other leaders, whilst supporting the fatwa, claimed that British Muslims were not allowed to carry out the fatwa themselves. Prominent amongst these were the Muslim Parliament and its leader Dr Kalim Siddiqui. After his death in 1996, his successor Ghayasuddin Siddiqui took up the mantle by maintaining the support for the fatwa. In 1998, despite an apparent relaxation of the fatwa against the author, Siddiqui remained a supporter of the decision, criticising the Iranian leadership by saying to the [ [ BBC, September 23 1998] ] that it had no authority to revoke the fatwa, and "the position of the Muslim Parliament is independent of what may or may not happen in Tehran".

His support for the fatwa issued by Khomeini continued as late as the year 2000, as was reported by The Independent newspaper and the Press Association [ [ The Independent, 13 February 2000] ] . He said "We support the fatwa but at the same time we have always said that Muslims in this country should abide by the law and not carry out the killing." And added: "It has always been the situation that the fatwa remains in operation and valid."

Meanwhile in America, the director of the Near East Studies Center at UCLA, George Sabbagh, told an interviewer that Khomeini was "completely within his rights" to call for Rushdie's death. ["TIME", Feb. 27, 1989, p.159]

In May 1989 in Beirut Lebanon, British citizen Jack Mann was abducted, "in response to Iran's fatwa against Salman Rushdie for the publication of book the Satanic Verses and more specifically, for his refuge and protection in the United Kingdom." [Ranstorp, "Hizb'allah in Lebanon", (1997), p.103] He joined several Westerners held hostage there. Two months earlier a photograph of three teachers held hostages was released by Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine with the message that it `would take revenge against `all institutions and organization that insulted in one way or another` members of the Prophet Mohammed's family." ["Iran: West to Blame Islam for Forthcoming Terrorism", "Philadelphia Inquirer", February 24, 1989, p.5A] The Iranian supported and financed radical Shia group Hezbollah is considered to be the actual perpetrator of the kidnappings.

Author and scholar on Islam, Anthony McRoy has pointed out that "In Islamic society a blasphemer is held in the same hostile contempt as a paedophile in the West. Just as few if any people in the West mourn the murder of a child molester, few Muslims mourn the killing of a blasphemer."

Criticism of Khomeini's fatwa

On Islamic grounds

In the West, Khomeini's fatwa was condemned on the grounds that it violated the universal human rights of free speech, freedom of religion, and that Khomeini had no right to condemn to death a citizen of another country living in that country, but the death sentence was also criticized on Islamic grounds.

According to some a death warrant without trial, defense, etc. violates Islamic jurisprudence. In Islamic fiqh, apostasy by a mentally sound adult male is indeed a capital crime, however, Fiqh also:

... lays down procedures according to which a person accused of an offense is to be brought to trial, confronted with his accuser, and given the opportunity to defend himself. A judge will then give a verdict and if he finds the accused guilty, pronounce sentence…

Even the most rigorous and extreme of the classical jurist only require a Muslims to kill anyone who insults the Prophet in his hearing and in his presence. They say nothing about a hired killing for a reported insult in a distant country. [Bernard Lewis commenting on Rushdie fatwa in "The Crisis of Islam : Holy War and Unholy Terror", 2003 by Bernard Lewis, p.141-2]

Other Islamic scholars outside of Iran took issue with the fact that the sentence was not passed by an Islamic court, or that it did not limit its “jurisdiction only [to] countries under Islamic law.” Muhammad Hussan ad-Din, a theologian at Al-Azhar University, argued "Blood must not be shed except after a trial [when the accused has been] given a chance to defend himself and repent." ["Newsweek", Feb. 27, 1989] Abdallah al-Mushidd, head of Azhar's Fatwa Council stated "We must try the author in a legal fashion of Islam does not accept killing as a legal instrument." [`Ab'ad Harb al-Kitab` "Al-Majalla", March 1, 1989, quoted in Pipes, (1990), p.93]

The Islamic Jurisprudence Academy in Mecca urged that Rushdie be tried and, if found guilty, be given a chance to repent, (p.93) and Ayatollah Mehdi Ruhani, head of the Shi'i community in Europe and a cousin of Khomeini, criticized Khomeini for `respect [ing] neither international law nor that of Islam.` ["Le Nouvel Observateur" February 23, 1989]

There was also a question of the fatwa against Rushdie's publishers. According to one scholar: "The Sharia clearly establishes that disseminating false information is not the same of expressing it. `Transmitting blasphemy is not blasphemy` ("naql al-kufr laysa kufr"). In addition, the publishers were not Muslim and so could not be "sentenced under the Islamic laws of apostasy." If there was another legal justification for sentencing them to death, "Khomeini failed to provide" it. [Pipes, (1990) p.91]

The Islamic Republic's response to calls for a trial was to denounce its Islamic proponents as "deceitful." President Khamene'i accused them of attempting to use religious law as "a flag under which they can crush revolutionary Islam." [ Radio Tehran, March 16, 1989, quoted in Pipes, (1990), p.135]

Questions of political motivation

Some speculate that the fatwa (or at least the reaffirmation of the death threat four days later) was issued with motives other than a sense of duty to protect Islam by punishing blasphemy/apostasy. Namely:

*To divide Muslims from the West by "starkly highlight [ing] the conflicting political and intellectual traditions" of the two civilizations. [Pipes, (1990) p.133] Khomeini had often warned Muslims of the dangers of the West - "the agents of imperialism [who] are busy in every corner of the Islamic world drawing our youth away from us with their evil propaganda." [Khomeini, "Islam and Revolution" (1980), p.127] He knew from news reports the book was already rousing the anger of Muslims.

*To distract the attention of his Iranian countrymen from his capitulation seven months earlier to a truce with Iraq (20 July 1988) ending the long and bloody Iran–Iraq War, (a truce Iraq would have eagerly given him six years and hundreds of thousands of lives earlier), [ Moin, Baqer, "Khomeini", (2001), p.267, ] ["The Gulf War : It's Origins, History and Consequences" by John Bulloch and Harvey Morris, 1989, (p.xvi)] ] and strengthen the revolutionary ardour of Iranians worn down by the bloodshed and privation of that war. According to journalist Robin Wright, "as the international furor grew, Khomeini declared that the book had been a `godsend` that had helped Iran out of a `naive foreign policy`". [Wright, Robin "In the Name of God", (c1989), p.201]

*To win back the interest in and support for the Islamic Revolution among the 90% of the population of the Muslim world that was Sunni rather than Shia, like Khomeini. The Iran–Iraq War had also alienated Sunni, who not were offended by its bloodshed, but tended to favor Iran's Sunni-led opponent, Iraq. At least one observer speculated that Khomeini's choice of the issue of disrespect for the Prophet Muhammad was a particularly shrewd tactic, as Sunni were inclined to suspect Shia of being more interested in the Imams Ali and Husayn ibn Ali than in the Prophet. [Pipes, (1990), 133-4]

*To steal the thunder of Khomeini's two least favorite enemy states, Saudi Arabia and the United States, who were basking in the glory of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. This withdrawal, seen by many as a great victory of Islamic faith over an atheist superpower, was made possible by billions of dollars in aid to the Afghan mujahideen by those two countries. Khomeini issued the fatwa on Feb. 14 1989. The next day came the official announcement of the completion of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, lost in the news cycle of the fatwa. [Kepel, "Jihad," (2001), p.135)]

*To gain the upper hand from Saudi Arabia in the struggle for international leadership of the Muslim world. Each led rivals blocs of international institutions and media networks, and "the Saudi government, it should be remembered, had led the anti-Rushdie campaign for months." [Pipes, (1990), 133-4] Unlike the more conservative Saudi Arabia, however, Iran was ideologically and militantly anti-western and could take a more militant stand outside of international law.

Questions of personal motivation

*Despite claims by Islamic Republic officials that `Rushdie's book did not insult Iran or Iranian leaders` and so they had no selfish personal motivation to attack the book, the book does include an eleven-page sketch of Khomeini's stay in Paris that could well be considered an insult to the Imam. It describes him as having `grown monstrous, lying in the palace forecourt with his mouth yawning open at the gates; as the people march through the gates he swallows them whole.` In the words of one observer, "If this is not an insult, Khomeini was far more tolerant than one might suppose," [Pipes, (1990), 207]

Attempts to revoke the fatwa

On September 24, 1998, as a precondition to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Britain, the Iranian government, then headed by moderate Muhammad Khatami, gave a public commitment that it would "neither support nor hinder assassination operations on Rushdie."cite news|date=June 8, 2005|title=Tomb of the unknown assassin reveals mission to kill Rushdie|author=Anthony Loyd|url=|publisher=The Times] [cite web |url= |publisher=BBC News: On This Day |title=26 December 1990: Iranian leader upholds Rushdie fatwa |accessdate=2006-10-10] But the hardliners in Iran have continued to reaffirm the death sentence. [cite web |url= |publisher=The Middle East Forum: Promoting American Interests |title=Can Iran Be Trusted? |author=Rubin, Michael |date=1 September 2006 |accessdate=2006-10-10] In early 2005, Khomeini's fatwa was reaffirmed by Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message to Muslim pilgrims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.cite web |url=,,1-2-1448279-2,00.html |publisher=The Times Online |title=Ayatollah revives the death fatwa on Salman Rushdie |author=Webster, Philip, Ben Hoyle and Ramita Navai |date=January 20 2005 |accessdate=2006-10-10] Additionally, the Revolutionary Guards have declared that the death sentence on him is still valid. [cite web |url= |publisher=BBC News |title=Iran adamant over Rushdie fatwa |date=12 February 2005 |accessdate=2006-10-10] Iran has rejected requests to withdraw the fatwa on the basis that only the person who issued it may withdraw it, with Ruhollah Khomeini having died in 1989.

On February 14, 2006, the Iranian state news agency reported that the fatwa will remain in place permanently.cite news|title =Iran says Rushdie fatwa still stands|language=English|publisher=Iran Focus|date=2006-02-14|url=|accessdate=2007-01-22]

Salman Rushdie reported that he still receives a "sort of Valentine's card" from Iran each year on February 14 letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him.He was also quoted saying, "It's reached the point where it's a piece of rhetoric rather than a real threat." [cite web |url= |title=Rushdie's term |accessdate=2007-02-15 ]

ocial and political fallout

One of the immediate consequences of the fatwa was a worsening of Islamic-Western relations.

Heightened tensions

Rushdie lamented that the controversy fed the Western stereotype of "the backward, cruel, rigid Muslim, burning books and threatening to kill the blasphemer," [Marzorati, Gerald, "Salman Rushdie: Fiction's Embattled Infidel," "The New York Times Magazine", January 29, 1989] while another British writer compared the Ayatollah Khomeini "with a familiar ghost from the past - one of those villainous Muslim clerics, a Faqir of Ipi or a mad Mullah, who used to be portrayed, larger than life, in popular histories of the British Empire." [Anthony Harly, "Saving Mr. Rushdie?" "Encounter", June 1989, p. 74] Media expressions of this included a banner headline in the popular British newspaper the "Daily Mirror" referring to Khomeini as "that Mad Mullah". [February 15, 1989]

Westerners worried that Muslim book burning demonstrations were "following the example of the Inquisition and Hitler's National Socialists," ["The Independent", March 16, 1989] and that if Rushdie was killed, "it would be the first burning of a heretic in Europe in two centuries." [League for the Spread of Unpopular Views. West German organization, "Bund zur Verbreitung unerwunschter Einsichten" [Hamburg] , "Der Fall Rushdie und die Feigheit des Westerns," pamphlet, p. 3. quoted in Pipes (1990), p.250] Some feared that with Europe's growing Muslim population, "Islamic fundamentalism is rapidly growing into a much bigger threat of violence and intolerance than anything emanating from, say, the fascist National Front; and a threat, moreover, infinitely more difficult to contain since it is virtually impossible to monitor, let alone stamp out ..." [Peregrine Worsthorne, "The Blooding of the Literati," "Sunday Telegraph", February 19, 1989]

On the Muslim side, the Iranian government saw the book as part of a British conspiracy against Islam. It broke diplomatic relations with UK on March 7, 1989 giving the explanation that "in the past two centuries Britain has been in the frontline of plots and treachery against Islam and Muslims," It accused the British of sponsoring Rushdie's book to use it as a political and cultural tact on earlier military plots that no longer worked. [Islamic Revolution News Agency, March 7, 1989] It also saw itself as the victor of the controversy, with the European Community countries capitulating under Iranian pressure. When Europeans

saw that their economic interests in Muslim countries could be damaged, they began to correct their position on the issue of the insulting book. Every official started to condemn the book in one way or another. When they realized that Iran's reaction, its breaking of diplomatic relations with London, could also include then, they quickly sent back their ambassadors to Tehran to prevent further Iranian reaction. ["Kayhan Havai", April 18, 1989]

Salman Rushdie's hope "that his writing might inspire Muslims to reflect on their religion, to reconsider its verities," was dashed. "His novel had the exact opposite effect. It enraged millions of Muslim, and thereby drove them into reflexively repeating the old pieties." Pipes, (1990), p.152]

Book sales

One thing the protests and fatwa did not do was suppress interest in the book. The publicity assured it "a unique and enduring place in the history of literature. It became the preeminent symbol of both censorship and freedom of speech, of cultural misunderstanding and shared values." [Pipes (1990), p.202] and turned it into a "a roaring international best seller." Although British bookseller, W.H. Smith sold "a mere hundred copies a week of the book in mid-January 1989," it "flew off the shelves" following the fatwa. In America it sold an "unprecedented" five times more copies than the number two book, "Star" by Danielle Steel, selling more than 750,000 copies of the book by May 1989. B. Dalton, a bookstore chain that decided not to stock the book for security reasons, changed its mind when it found the book "was selling so fast that even as we tried to stop it, it was flying off the shelves." [Len Riggioi quoted in "Publishers Weekly", March 10, 1989] [Pipes (1990), p.200-1] Rushdie earned about $2 million within the first year of the book's publication, [ Pipes (1990), p.205] and the book is said to be Viking's all-time best seller. [ RUSHDIE: Haunted by his unholy ghosts] ]

Nor has the campaign been notably successful in suppressing books published in Western countries critical of Islam, which have proliferated in recent years. [ [ Conservative Book Service ] ] Author Ibn Warraq was provoked to write his book "Why I Am Not a Muslim" as a result of the fatwa against "The Satanic Verses". [`1989 was the final turning point for me, when the Fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie for his "Satanic Verses".` [ Interview with Ibn Warraq] ]


However, the campaign and fatwa have had more "lasting importance," in intimidating individual "Muslim freethinkers and non-Muslim critics of Islam." Belgium-based writer Koenraad Elst has compiled a long list of civilians killed or imprisoned, death threats made, fines levied, products withdrawn, for actions following the fatwa that were deemed blasphemous to Islam or insulting to Muslims. [ [ Afterword: The Rushdie Affair's Legacy] ]

Some fatalities attributed to a higher level of Islamist violence after 1989 include, (beside those mentioned above), the killing of Turkish journalists Cetin Emec (1990), Turan Dursun (1990), Uğur Mumcu (1993); Egyptian Farag Foda (1992). Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz (1994) who had called Khomeini "a terrorist" was stabbed in the neck. Pakistani High Court judge, Arif Bhatti (1997), was assassinated after acquitting two Christians accused of blasphemy.


The author of the book himself was not killed or injured as many militants wished, but visibly frustrated by a life locked in 24-hour armed guard - alternately defiant against his would-be killers and vainly attempting overtures of reconciliation against the irrevocable death threat. A week after the death threat, and after his unsuccessful apology to the Iranian government, Rushdie described succumbing to `a curious lethargy, the soporific torpor that overcomes ... while under attack`; [Salman Rushdie, `Beginning of a Novelist's Thralldom` "The Observer", February 26, 1989] then, a couple of weeks after that, wrote a poem vowing `not to shut up` but 'to sing on, in spite of attacks.' [March 6, 1989 published in "Granta", Autumn 1989] But in June, following the death of Khomeini, he asked his supporters "to tone down their criticism of Iran."

His wife, Marianne Wiggins, reported that in the first few months following the fatwa the couple moved 56 times, once every three days. In late July Rushdie separated from Wiggins, "the tension of being at the center of an international controversy, and the irritations of spending all hours of the day together in seclusion," being too much for their "shaky" relationship. [Pipes (1990), p.203]

Late the next year Rushdie declared, "I want to reclaim my life," and in December signed a declaration "affirming his Islamic faith and calling for Viking-Penguin, the publisher of "The Satanic Verses", neither to issue the book in paperback nor to allow it to be translated." [ [ Rushdie Fails to Move the Zealots by Daniel Pipes Los Angeles Times December 28, 1990] ] This also failed to move supporters of the fatwa and by mid 2005 Rushdie was condemning Islamic fundamentalism as a

... project of tyranny and unreason which wishes to freeze a certain view of Islamic culture in time and silence the progressive voices in the Muslim world calling for a free and prosperous future. ... along comes 9/11, and now many people say that, in hindsight, the fatwa was the prologue and this is the main event. [ [ The Iconoclast] ]

Reception timeline


*September 26, 1988: The novel is published in the UK.
*Khushwant Singh while reviewing the book in Illustrated Weekly proposed ban on "Satanic Verses", apprehending the reaction it may evoke among people.
*October 5, 1988: India bans the novel's importation, after Indian parliamentarian and editor of the monthly magazine "Muslim India" Syed Shahabuddin petitioned the government of Rajiv Gandhi to ban the book. ["Being God's Postman Is No Fun, Yaar": Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Srinivas Aravamudan.Diacritics, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Summer, 1989), pp. 3-20 ] [Postmodernist Perceptions of Islam: Observing the Observer. Akbar S. Ahmed. Asian Survey, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Mar., 1991), pp. 213-231] [Shahabuddin, Syed. “You did this with satanic forethought, Mr. Rushdie.” Times of India. 13 October 1988.] In 1993 Syed Shahabuddin tried unsuccessfully to ban another book (Ram Swarup's "Hindu View of Christianity and Islam"). [Arun Shourie: How should we respond? In The Observer of Business and Politics, New Delhi, 26 November 1993, also published in many other Indian newspapers and periodicals and reprinted in Sita Ram Goel (ed.): Freedom of Expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy, 1998 ISBN 81-85990-55-7. [] ] [Statement by Indian intellectuals on Syed Shahabuddin's attempt to make the authorities impose a ban on the book Hindu View of Christianity and Islam by Ram Swarup, Delhi, 18 November. Reprinted in Sita Ram Goel (ed.): Freedom of Expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy 1998 ISBN 81-85990-55-7 [] ]
*October 1988: Death threats against Rushdie compel him to cancel trips and sometimes take a bodyguard. Letter writing campaign to Viking Press in America brings "tens of thousands of menacing letters." [Pipes, "Rushdie Affair" (1990) p.22]
*October 20, 1988: Union of Muslim Organisations of the UK writes the British government pressing for a ban of "The Satanic Verse" on grounds of blasphemy. [Pipes, "Rushdie Affair" (1990) p.21]
*November 21, 1988: Grand sheik of Egypt's Al-Azhar calls on Islamic organizations in Britain to take legal action to prevent the novel's distribution
*November 24, 1988: The novel is banned in South Africa and Pakistan; bans follow within weeks in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Bangladesh, Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Qatar.
*December 2, 1988: First book burning of "The Satanic Verses" in UK. 7000 Muslims attend rally burning the book in Bolton. Little press coverage. [Pipes, "Rushdie Affair" (1990) p.23]


*January 14, 1989: A copy of the book burned in Bradford. Extensive media coverage and debate. Some support from non-Muslims. [Pipes, "Rushdie Affair" (1990) p.23]
*January 1989: Islamic Defense Council demands that Penguin Books apologise, withdraw the novel, destroy any extant copies, and never reprint it.
*February 12, 1989: Six people are killed and 100 injured when 10,000 attack the American Cultural Center in Islamabad, Pakistan protesting Rushdie and his book. [Pipes, "Rushdie Affair" (1990) p.25]
*February 13, 1989: One person is killed and over 100 injured in anti-Rushdie riots in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. [cite news|title=Freedom of Information and Expression in India|url=|date=Oct. 1990|publisher=Article 19|location=London] [Pipes, "Rushdie Affair" (1990) p.26]
*February 14, 1989: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issues a fatwa calling on all Muslims to execute all those involved in the publication of the novel; the 15 Khordad Foundation, an Iranian religious foundation or bonyad, offers a reward of $US1 million or 200 million rials for the murder of Rushdie.
*February 16, 1989: Various armed Islamist groups, such as Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp and Hezbollah of Lebanon, express their enthusiasm to "carry out the Imam's decree." [Pipes, "Rushdie Affair" (1990) p.28-9] Rushdie enters the protection program of the British government.
*February 17, 1989: Iranian leader Ali Khamenei says Rushdie could be pardoned if he apologizes. [Article "Iran suggests an apology could save life of Rushdie; Rushdie controversy." The Times (London, England), 1989-02-18, accessed via Infotrac.]
*February 18, 1989: Rushdie apologizes just as Khamenei has suggested; initially, IRNA (the official Iranian news agency) says Rushdie's statement "is generally seen as sufficient enough to warrant his pardon". [Article "Iranians in confusion after Rushdie apologizes; Rushdie controversy." The Sunday Times (London, England), 1989-02-19, accessed via Infotrac.]
*February 19, 1989: Khomeini issues edict saying no apology or contrition by Rushdie could lift his death sentence.
*February 22, 1989: The novel is published in the U.S.A.; major bookstore chains Barnes and Noble and Waldenbooks, under threat, remove the novel from one-third of the nation's bookstores.
*February 24, 1989: Iranian businessman offers a $3 million bounty for the death of Rushdie.
*February 24, 1989: Twelve people die and 40 are wounded when a large anti-Rushdie riot in Bombay, Maharashtra, India starts to cause considerable property damage and police open fire. [cite book|title=World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1990|author=Mark S. Hoffman|publisher=World Almanac Books]
*February 28, 1989: Two bookstores in Berkeley, California, USA, are firebombed for selling the novel. The office of The Riverdale Press, a weekly newspaper in the Bronx, is destroyed by firebombs. A caller to 911 says the bombing was in retaliation for an editorial defending the right to read the novel, and criticizing the chain stores that stopped selling it.
*March 7, 1989: Iran breaks diplomatic relations with Britain.
*March 1989: The Organization of the Islamic Conference calls on its 46 member governments to prohibit the novel. The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar sets the punishment for possession of the book as three years in prison and a fine of $2,500; in Malaysia, three years in prison and a fine of $7,400; in Indonesia, a month in prison or a fine. The only nation with a predominantly Muslim population where the novel remains legal is Turkey. Several nations with large Muslim minorities, including Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, also impose penalties for possessing the novel.
*May 1989: Popular musician Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) indicates his support for the fatwa and states during a British television documentary, according to the New York Times, that if Rushdie shows up at his door, he "might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like... I'd try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is." Yusuf Islam later denied giving support to the fatwa. [cite news|last =R. Whitney|first =Craig|title =Cat Stevens Gives Support To Call for Death of Rushdie|language =English|publisher =The New York Times|date =1989-05-23|url =|accessdate =2006-01-22] For more on this topic see Cat Stevens' comments about Salman Rushdie
*May 27 1989: 15,000 to 20,000 Muslims gather in Parliament Square in London burning Rushdie in effigy and calling for the novel's banning. The demonstration showed that passions were still strong months after the controversy had erupted. [Pipes, 1990, p.181]
*June 3, 1989: Khomeini dies.


*1990: Rushdie apologised to Muslims.
*1990: Rushdie publishes an essay on Khomeini's death, "In Good Faith", to appease his critics and issues an apology in which he seems to reaffirm his respect for Islam; however, Iranian clerics do not retract the fatwa.
*1990: Five bombings target bookstores in England.
*Dec. 24, 1990: Rushdie signs a declaration affirming his Islamic faith and calls for Viking-Penguin, the publisher of The Satanic Verses, neither to issue the book in paperback nor to allow it to be translated. [ [ Rushdie Fails to Move the Zealots] ]


*July 1991: Hitoshi Igarashi, the novel's Japanese translator, is stabbed to death; and Ettore Capriolo, its Italian translator, is seriously wounded.


*July 2, 1993: Thirty-seven Turkish intellectuals and locals participating in the Pir Sultan Abdal Literary Festival, die when the conference hotel in Sivas, Turkey, is burnt down by a mob of 2000. Participating in the conference was Aziz Nesin, the Turkish translator of "Satanic Verse," who the mob demanded be handed over for summary execution. The mob set the hotel alight when Nesin was not turned over. Ironically, Nesin escaped the fire and survived. [ [ Afterword: The Rushdie Affair's Legacy] ]
*August 11, 1993: Rushdie makes a rare public appearance at U2's concert in Wembley Stadium on their Zoo TV Tour in London. Bono, donned as stage character/devil Mr. MacPhisto, placed a call to Rushdie only to find himself face to face with Rushdie on stage. Rushdie told Bono that "real devils don't wear horns."
*October 1993: The novel's Norwegian publisher, William Nygaard, is shot and seriously injured.
*1993: The 15 Khordad Foundation in Iran raises the reward for Rushdie's murder to $300,000.
*10 June, 1994: under great secrecy, Rushdie appears on BBC satirical news quiz "Have I Got News for You" [ [ IMDb entry] for "Have I Got News for You", 10 June 1994.] , a different guest having been advertised in his place. Rushdie's son claims that he was more impressed at this than anything else his father had ever done.


*August 26 1995: Interview with Rushdie published where Rushdie tells interviewer Anne McElvoy of The Times that his attempt to appease extremists by affirming his Islamic faith and calling for the withdrawal of "Satanic Verses" was "biggest mistake of my life." Fact|date=July 2007


*1997: The bounty is doubled, to $600,000.
*1998: Iranian government publicly declares that it will "neither support nor hinder assassination operations on Rushdie." This is announced as part of a wider agreement to normalise relations between Iran and the United Kingdom. Rushdie subsequently declares that he will stop living in hiding, and that he is not, in fact, religious. According to some of Iran's leading clerics, despite the death of Khomeini and the Iranian government's official declaration, the fatwa remains in force. Iran's foreign minister Kamal Kharazi also pointed out that:

"The responsibility for carrying out the fatwa was not the exclusive responsibility of Iran. It is the religious duty of all Muslims – those who have the ability or the means – to carry it out. It does not require any reward. In fact, those who carry out this edict in hopes of a monetary reward are acting against Islamic injunctions." [cite news|title=Imam Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie still stands|date=October 16, 1998|author=Waseem Shehzad|publisher=Muslimedia|url=]


*1999: An Iranian foundation places a $2.8 million bounty on Rushdie's life.
*February 14, 1999: on the tenth anniversary of the ruling against Rushdie, more than half of the deputies in Parliament sign a statement declaring, `The verdict on Rushdie, the blasphemer, is death, both today and tomorrow, and to burn in hell for all eternity.` [Sciolino, "Persian Mirrors" 2000, 2005 p.182-3)]


*February 14, 2000: Ayatollah Hassan Saneii, the head of the 15th of Khordad Foundation, reiterates that the death sentence remains valid and the foundation's $2.6 million reward will be paid with interest to Rushdie's assassins. Persians take this news with some skepticism as the foundation is "widely known" to be bankrupt. [Sciolino, "Persian Mirrors" 2000, 2005 p.182-3)]
*January 2002: South Africa lifts its ban on the Satanic Verses ." [cite news|title= SA unbans Satanic Verses at library's request|language=English|publisher=Star|date =2002-01-15|url=]
*February 16, 2003: Iran's Revolutionary Guards reiterate the call for the assassination of Rushdie. As reported by the Sunday Herald, "Ayatollah Hassan Saneii, head of the semi-official Khordad Foundation that has placed a $2.8 million bounty on Rushdie's head, was quoted by the "Jomhuri Islami" newspaper as saying that his foundation would now pay $3 million to anyone who kills Rushdie." [cite news|last =Hamilton|first =James|title=Revived fatwa puts $3m bounty on Rushdie|language=English|publisher=Sunday Herald|date =2003-02-16|url=|accessdate=2003-04-04]
*March 2004: 16 years after the first English edition Hungarian translation is published, translator's name not specified for security reasons.


*Early 2005: Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie is reaffirmed by Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message to Muslim pilgrims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Iran has rejected requests to withdraw the fatwa on the basis that only the person who issued it may withdraw it.
*February 14, 2006: Iran’s official state news agency reports on the anniversary of the decree that the government-run Martyrs Foundation has announced, "The fatwa by Imam Khomeini in regard to the apostate Salman Rushdie will be in effect forever", and that one of Iran’s state "bonyad", or foundations, has offered a $2.8 million bounty on his life.
*June 15, 2007: Rushdie receives knighthood for services to literature sparking an outcry from Islamic groups. Several groups invoking the Satanic Verses controversy renew calls for his death.
*June 29, 2007:Bombs planted in central London may have been linked to the Knighthood of Salman Rushdie. [ [ Was London Bomb Plot Heralded On Web?, Internet Forum Comment From Night Before: "London Shall Be Bombed" - CBS News ] ]

ee also

*Censorship in South Asia
*Censorship by organized religion
*Freedom of speech
*Freedom of speech versus blasphemy
*"Submission" – short film about mistreatment of women in Islam
*Piss Christ – controversial photograph
*Sudanese teddy bear blasphemy case
*Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy
*Monty Python's Life of Brian - controversial comedy movie about religion



*"100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature", Nicholas J. Karolides, Margaret Bald & Dawn B. Sova, Checkmark Books, New York, 1999. ISBN 0-8160-4059-1
*cite book |author=Harris, David|title=The Crisis: the President, the Prophet, and the Shah — 1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam |publisher=Little, Brown|year=2004
*cite book |author=Hoveyda, Fereydoun|title=The Shah and the Ayatollah: Iranian mythology and Islamic revolution |publisher=Praeger|year=2003
*Elst, Koenraad: [ The Rushdie Rules] "Middle East Quarterly", June 1998
*cite book |author=Keddie, Nikki |title=Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution |publisher=Yale University Press|year=2003
*cite book |author=Kepel, Gilles |title=Jihad: on the Trail fo Political Islam |publisher=Harvard University Press|year=2002
*cite book |author=Mackey, Sandra |title=The Iranians: Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation |publisher=Dutton |year=1996
*cite book |author=Moin, Baqer |title=Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah |publisher=Thomas Dunne Books |year=2000
*Daniel Pipes: The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah, and the West (1990), Transaction Publishers, (2003), with a postscript by Koenraad Elst. ISBN 0-7658-0996-6
*cite book |author=Ruthven, Malise|title=Islam in the World|publisher=Oxford University Press|year=2000
*cite book |author=Schirazi, Asghar |title=The Constitution of Iran |publisher=Tauris |year=1997
*cite book |author=Shirley, Edward|title=Know Thine Enemy |publisher= Farra|year=1997
*cite book |author=Wright, Robin |title=In the Name of God: The Khomeini Decade |publisher=Simon and Schuster |year=c1989
*cite book |author=Bulloch, John |title=The Gulf War : It's Origins, History and Consequences by John Bulloch and Harvey Morris |publisher=Methuen London | year=1989

External links

*ISBN 0-312-27082-8
* [ Notes on Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses]
* [ The Rusdhie's Affair Legacy] by Koenraad Elst
* [ Satanic Verses and Last Temptations] - discusses criticism of "The Satanic Verses" as well as of the film "The Last Temptation of Christ"
* [ Swords to sell a god] by Ram Swarup
* [ Healthy Blasphemy: Dissenting Discourses in Rushdie and Bulgakov] - discusses the role of the artist in Rushdie's and Bulgakov's works
* [ RUSHDIE: Haunted by his unholy ghosts]
* [ Salman Rushdie interviewed by Shikha Dalmia] "Reason", August September 2005

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