Reuters: A prominent Iranian cleric said on Friday the fatwa death warrant against author Salman Rushdie issued by the late Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 was “still alive” in the Islamic Republic. TEHRAN (Reuters) – A prominent Iranian cleric said on Friday the fatwa death warrant against author Salman Rushdie issued by the late Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 was “still alive” in the Islamic Republic.
The comments by Ahmad Khatami at Friday prayers broadcast on state radio were the latest sign of the anger in Iran and elsewhere in the Muslim world sparked by Britain’s decision to award a knighthood to Rushdie.
Muslims say his novel “The Satanic Verses” blasphemed against the Prophet Mohammad and ridiculed the Koran.
In 1998, Iran’s government formally distanced itself from the death warrant, but hardline groups in Iran regularly renew the call for his murder, saying Khomeini’s fatwa is irrevocable.
“In the Islamic Iran that revolutionary fatwa of Imam (Khomeini) is still alive and cannot be changed,” Khatami, who often rails against the West, told worshippers in Tehran. “Britain should know that it will be the 100 percent looser …”
Rushdie, who lived in hiding for nine years, was awarded the knighthood for services to literature in Queen Elizabeth’s birthday honours list published on Saturday.
Pakistan and Iran have protested against the award and small demonstrations have been held in parts of Pakistan and in Malaysia.
Britain has defended the knighthood, stressing the importance of free speech and saying it was part of a trend of honouring Muslims in the British community.
Khatami, who is a member of an influential clerical body, the Assembly of Experts, said Rushdie had “disrespected the sacred values of more than 1.5 billion Muslims”.
“The old and decrepit government of Britain should know that the era of their empire fantasies is over and now it is a servant of America.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Britain’s ambassador to Tehran on Tuesday to protest against the knighting, calling it a provocative act.
Rushdie was born to Muslim parents in India, prompting Muslims to accuse him of apostasy after “The Satanic Verses” was published in 1988.