TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran said on Sunday that a fatwa ordering the death of British writer Salman Rushdie issued by its revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini still stands after his knighthood by the queen.
“The stance of the Islamic Republic of Iran with regard to this issue has not changed from what was put forward by the Imam Khomeini,” foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.
The Indian-born Rushdie, 59, was forced to go into hiding for a decade after Khomeini issued the 1989 death sentence over his book “The Satanic Verses,” saying it insulted Islam.
Khomeini’s successor as supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in January 2005 he still believed the British novelist was an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam.
Hosseini was asked by a local reporter why Iran’s reaction to the knighthood for the writer has been relatively low-key in comparison to other Islamic countries such as Pakistan.
Over a week after Rushdie was made Sir Salman by the queen, there have been no officially-sanctioned protests against the knighthood in Iran and Khamenei has yet to make any official comment on the issue.
However Hosseini pointed out that swiftly after the awarding of the knighthood, he had accused Britain of “Islamaphobia” in knighting Rushdie.
A leading cleric, Ahmad Khatami, had said during Friday prayers that the fatwa was still valid, but this was the first time an official has made such a confirmation since the knighthood.
In neighbouring Pakistan, Islamists have staged protests, burning effigies of Queen Elizabeth and Rushdie, while its parliament has called on London to revoke the honour.
Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz-ul Haq also sparked controversy by saying that Rushdie’s knighthood justified suicide bombings.