The Fatwa

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Issued on February 14, 1989, Iran’s fatwa condemned Rushdie and the publisher of The Satanic Verses, calling on “all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly.” In a series of subsequent statements from official sources in Iran, Rushdie was depicted as a demonic blasphemer and tool of sinister Western manipulators. The speaker of the Iranian parliament saw Rushdie’s novel as the most overt of a series of covert hostile actions against Islam. A report on Iranian radio blamed British intelligence for Rushdie’s book, calling it part of a larger anti-Islamic propaganda campaign. Although Khomeini himself was said to have viewed The Satanic Verses as a calculated move against religion in general, another leader, President Khamenei, detected a broad cultural conspiracy behind the novel. In Khamenei’s view, “aside from being a sin in the eyes of the law, religion and humanity, this dirtying of literature and arts was an ugly deed.” Khomeini’s statement claimed that God himself had revealed the anti-Islamic nature of the novel and wanted it published in order to expose its poison. The statement of President Khamenei viewed Rushdie inconsistently as both a mere stooge of the United States and a “member of the British royal literary society” who “was forced to write a book.”