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Iranian media pitch in extra $600K for 1989 bounty demanding writer Rushdie's murder

The bounty, which is now said to run into the millions, was first issued in 1989 after Rushdie wrote "The Satanic Verses" -- which Iranian officials say is blasphemous to Islam.
By Doug G. Ware   |   Feb. 24, 2016 at 5:08 PM
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TEHRAN, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Dozens of Iranian media outlets have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to add to a 27-year-old bounty on the head of writer Salman Rushdie -- over a text he wrote that critics say defame the Muslim faith -- one of the outlets reported Wednesday.

The state-run Fars News Agency reported that $600,000 has been added to the bounty, which is said to have grown into the millions of dollars over the last three decades.

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Fars is among the largest contributors, having given nearly $30,000.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader when the bounty, or "fatwā," was first issued in 1989, ordered Rushdie's death upon the publication of his novel, "The Satanic Verses" -- which Khomeini said was "blasphemous" to Islam.

Despite the hefty reward, Rushdie has avoided assassination with the aid of police protection supplied by the British government. Eleven years after Khomeini issued the fatwā, Rushdie moved to the United States and reportedly resides in New York City.

It wasn't immediately clear what, if anything, spurred the media outlets to take up a new collection to facilitate the bounty -- but it's the largest concerted effort to carry out Rushdie's murder since the fatwā was first ordered.

Khomeini's order sparked a major controversy and even led to the suspension of diplomatic ties between Tehran and Great Britain for nearly a decade. In 1998, London reestablished the ties when Iranian officials said the unsuccessful assassination attempt was "finished."

However, the official decree was never lifted and current Iranian officials say it's still active -- meaning Tehran still wants the India-born writer dead.

"Imam Khomeini's fatwā is a religious decree and it will never lose its power or fade out," Iran's deputy culture minister Seyed Abbas Salehi said in the Fars report, which was headlined by an art graphic depicting a gun sight on Rushdie's forehead.

The report said the additional $600,000 was being offered by the Cultural Revolution Front.

Iran's current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, reaffirmed the bounty in 2005 and Revolutionary Guards have also confirmed that Rushdie's death warrant is still active.

Further, Rushdie says he receives a greeting-type card from Tehran every year on the anniversary of the bounty's declaration, Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, as a reminder that Iranian leaders have not forgotten about the fatwā.

"The Satanic Verses" was banned in multiple nations after its publication in 1988, including Rushdie's homeland of India. Khomeini's order also calls for the deaths of anyone who aided Rushdie in the book's publication.

In 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi, who translated the novel in Japanese, was stabbed to death. Italian translator Ettore Capriolo was also stabbed, but survived the attack. In 1993, Norwegian publisher William Nygaard was shot three times, but survived, and Turkish translator Aziz Nesin was targeted in an arson attack on a hotel that killed 37 other people.

Last year, Rushdie was a featured speaker at a German book fair -- a move that spurred Iran to pull out of the event and call for other Muslim nations to do the same. Tehran slammed fair organizers for inviting "a person who is hated in the Islamic world."

Three years ago, Rushdie wrote "Joseph Anton: A Memoir," which detailed his exile and the impact "The Satanic Verses" had on his life.

Over the years, numerous parties have requested Tehran to remove the fatwā. However, Iranian officials have said that's impossible -- due to the fact that only the person who ordered the fatwā can rescind it. In this case, that's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- who died just weeks after he issued the death warrant in 1989.

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