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1990: Iranian leader upholds Rushdie fatwa

Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said the death sentence on writer Salman Rushdie for alleged blasphemy will remain in force.

He rejected the author's repentance and recent decision not to publish a paperback edition of the novel The Satanic Verses which was deemed offensive to the Islamic faith.

Tehran Radio quoted Ayatollah Khameini as saying the decree by his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini "remains unchanged even if he repents and becomes the most pious man of his time".

The Indian-born novelist has been in hiding under police guard since Ayatollah Khomeini ordered his death 22 months ago.

He renewed his faith in Islam on Christmas Eve and disassociated himself from the anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by characters in his book.

His decision came after talks with Muslim moderates, including Egyptian officials, and was an attempt to smooth over his differences with the Islamic community and come out of hiding.

'Divine ruling'

Mr Rushdie said he believed it was "the beginning of the end" for the death threat and he pledged not to permit further translations of The Satanic Verses and to "continue to work for a better understanding of Islam".

But Ayatollah Khamenei was adamant the 'divine ruling' was irrevocable.

He said the efforts of "certain pseudo-Muslim persons" would not change the Iranian fatwa of 1989.

The Ayatollah inherited the mantle of supreme spiritual guide of the Iranian revolution when Ayatollah Khomeini died in June last year and his authority is unlikely to be challenged in Tehran.

His decision was backed by some Muslim scholars in Britain.

Mr Mohammed Siddiqi, leader of Britain's Muslim Youth Movement, reiterated demands for a withdrawal of all copies of The Satanic Verses and for a pledge the novel would never be published in any form again.

The UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs acknowledged Mr Rushdie had taken a step in the right direction, but said he should have withdrawn The Satanic Verses from circulation.

In Context
The fatwa resulted in the writer having to keep his whereabouts secret and he ended up living in 30 different locations in the UK over a nine year period.

The cost of protecting him throughout this time was estimated to be in the region of 11m a year.

In 1998, the Iranian Government gave a public commitment it would not carry out the death sentence against Mr Rushdie.

But Iranian hardliners have continued to call for Mr Rushdie's death.

Mr Rushdie has however appeared in public more frequently since the announcement in 1998 and even appeared in the hit movie Bridget Jones's Diary.


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