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Rushdie pictured in 2013
Rushdie pictured in 2013
Image: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade, File

This British author has had a death sentence on his head for more than 20 years

It was on this day that the Ayatollah of Iran confirmed the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.
Dec 26th 2015, 7:45 AM 14,825 31

THE SATANIC VERSES was first published back in September 1988.

Prior to its release its author Salman Rushdie could not have predicted the fallout that the book would create.

Its publication led to uproar in some Islamic communities due to the perceived blasphemy in the book, and on 14 February 1989, the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ruhollah issued a fatwa calling for the death of Rushdie and his publishers.

On this day 25 years ago Ayatollah Ruhollah announced his decision to uphold the fatwa after Rushdie – who was born into an Islamic background - issued a statement apologising and expressing his respect for the religion.

The ruling remains in place to this day, and over the years has caused damage to diplomatic relations between the UK and Iran.

What happened?

The book received strong reviews after its release in September 1988 and seen as a strong literary effort from author who was on his fourth novel.

After it had been available for around a month, a groundswell of opposition against the book began to form. Large numbers of Muslims began to contact Rushdie’s publisher Viking Penguin requesting that the book be withdrawn.

This was followed by the book being banned in a number of countries including India, Bangladesh, Sudan and South Africa.

There was then a number of attacks on bookshops in the United Kingdom and United States and mass burnings of the book.

The peak of this was the death of a number of people in Pakistan during a protest outside the American Cultural Center in Islamabad, Pakistan on 12 February 1989.

AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini pictured in 1988 Source: AP/Press Association Images

The following day another person was killed in an incident in northern India and on Valentine’s Day 1989 the fatwa for the execution of all those involved in the publication of the novel was issued.

Is it still ongoing?

It has been 25 years since the judgement was issued, and Rushdie has said that he receives a yearly notification from Iran that it is still in place.

In 2012 the bounty on the author’s head was increased to around £2 million (€2.85 million) after the release of an anti-Islamic film entitled Innocence of Muslims.

Speaking at the time an Iranian State-affiliated representative said that if Rushdie had been killed it is likely that the film would not have been produced.

Read: Cyber security analyst identifies 20 Islamic State supporters based in Ireland

Also: The mystery of missing Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam

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Michael Sheils McNamee

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