Salman Rushdie has lived under a threat to his life since 1989, when his book The Satanic Verses came out. Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian Leader, found the book blasphemous. Khomeini though it was insulting to Muslims.
The state-run outlets in Iran have put together $600,000 which they added to the already existing bounty to make it $4 million, Reuters has reported.
The announcement comes at a time when the political hardliners and reformists in Iran are fighting for a lead in this week’s election for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts. Which is to say that the move is being seen as a very political one.
Iranian hardliners have said that the bounty on Rushdie is irrevocable and eternal, which is to say it will continue after his death.
The original amount of the fatwa was $2.7 million, which was increased to $3.3 million in 2012.
“These media outlets have set the $600,000 bounty on the 27th anniversary of the historical fatwa to show it is still alive,” Mansour Amiri, organizer of a digital technology exhibition told Reuters.
Amiri is the head of the Seraj Cyberspace Organisation. The organization has an affiliation to the Basij volunteer militia, which is connected with the Revolutionary Guards that was established to defend the values of the Iranian Revolution.
In 1998, after the pro-reform government came into power, it distanced itself from the fatwa and said that the threat against the Midnight’s Children author was over. The Satanic Verses Japanese tarnslator was murdered in 1991 and several other people involved with publishing it were attacked as well.
Komeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in 2005 that the fatwa was still very much valid, and hardliner clerics called on people to kill the writer.
Several took to the streets and burned copies of books and 37 people were massacred in Turkey in 1993, in an attack that was intended to target Aziz Nesin, Satanic Verses’ Trukish translator, Daily Mail has reported.
Aalthough Rushdie has not yet spoken about the recent addition of the bounty, he has been a firm believer in free speech.
In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Rushdie talked about what happened to him as a writer when the fatwa was imposed. He said he did not want to get derailed as an artist and that he was able to go on and be one.
“Immediately after, I didn’t have much time or headspace to think about work; the world was shouting in my ears. But I didn’t want to be derailed as an artist. So I told myself quite firmly, ‘Just go on being the writer you’ve always been.’ And if you show my books in chronological sequence to somebody who knows nothing about my life, I don’t think that reader would say, ‘Oh look, something terrible happened in 1989, and all the books after that are affected.’ I think they would see continuity in the literature. There’s no great disruption. And I’m proud of that—the fact that I was able to go on being myself as an artist.”
About Ayatollah Khomeini, he said “I’m not going to say a lot about the Ayatollah Khomeini other than to say one of us is dead and it’s not me,” Rushdie told Citizen Times.
Rushdie also shared his views on identity politcs and said “we are asked to define ourselves as this and not that in ways that have to do with religion, gender and race. The novel knows that this is a problem.”
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