Iran’s supreme leader labels Rushdie an apostate who can be killed

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AFP: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has labelled British author Salman Rushdie an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam, according to message carried by Iranian media Wednesday. Khamenei’s reference to Rushdie was made in a message to Muslims making the annnual pilgrimage to Mecca, and was part of a lengthy tirade against “Western and Zionist capitalists” and the US-led “war on terror”. AFP

TEHRAN – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has labelled British author Salman Rushdie an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam, according to message carried by Iranian media Wednesday.

Khamenei’s reference to Rushdie was made in a message to Muslims making the annnual pilgrimage to Mecca, and was part of a lengthy tirade against “Western and Zionist capitalists” and the US-led “war on terror”.

“They talk about respect towards all religions, but they support such a mahdour al-damm mortad as Salman Rushdie,” Khamenei said.

In the Sharia, or Islamic law, “mortad” is a reference to someone who has committed apostacy by leaving Islam while “mahdour al-damm” is a term applying to someone whose blood may be shed with impunity.

In his hajj message, the full transcript of which was carried by the state news agency IRNA, Khamenei made no further reference to Rushdie.

In February 1989 Iran’s revolutionary founder and Khamenei’s predecessor, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling for Rushdie’s execution because of alleged blasphemy and apostasy in his novel “The Satanic Verses”.

Under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who was elected in 1997, Iran’s leadership has distanced itself from the order to kill Rushdie, who born in Bombay, India, to a Muslim family.

In 1998, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi promised his then British counterpart Robin Cook that Iran would do nothing to implement the fatwa, despite a 2.8 million dollar bounty placed on Rushdie’s head by a parastate foundation in Iran.

The pledge eased nearly a decade of torn relations with the European Union but sparked a chorus of protest from hardliners, and a year ago the 15th of Khordad Foundation — the charitable trust that initially offered the bounty — issued a statement saying the fatwa was still valid.