"Ayatollah revives the death fatwa on Salman Rushdie," from AFP, with thanks to Andy Bannister:
A FATWA against the author Salman Rushdie was reaffirmed by Iran’s spiritual leader last night in a message to Muslim pilgrims.
British officials anxiously played down comments after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Muslims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Rushdie was an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam, according to the Iranian media.
His words came during a lengthy tirade against “Western and Zionist capitalists” and the US-led War on Terror.
However, senior British officials swiftly made plain last night that the Iranian Government, which had disassociated itself from the fatwa in 1998, had not changed its position.They pointed out that because the fatwa was issued in February 1989 by Iran’s revolutionary founder and Khamenei’s predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini, who had since died, it would always remain in existence.
Why is the British government cleaning up messes made by Khamenei?
They insisted that the move did not presage a further deterioration in the already tense relations with Iran over its nuclear programme. “This should not be taken as a new development,” one said.
The Foreign Office said: “The key thing from our point of view is that the Iranian Government formally withdrew their support for the fatwa on Salman Rushdie in 1998 which is when Britain and Iran formally upgraded their relationship to the level of ambassador.” A senior official said: “The original fatwa was issued by Ayatollah Khomeini shortly before he died. It can only be rescinded by the man who issued it or a higher authority so in practice it will hold indefinitely.
“Almost every time that the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, gives a sermon he mentions Salman Rushdie in these terms and denounces him as a man who has insulted the name of the Prophet and who can therefore be killed. It’s just the standard rhetoric.
Rest easy, Salman. It's just standard rhetoric.
“The crucial thing is that the fatwa is no longer endorsed by the Iranian Government because before 1998 what we had was effectively a state-sponsored death sentence.”
Ayatollah Khamenei said in his message: “They talk about respect towards all religions, but they support such a mahdour al-damm mortad as Salman Rushdie.” In Sharia, or Islamic law, mortad is a reference to someone who has committed apostasy by leaving Islam while mahdour al-damm is a term applying to someone whose blood may be shed with impunity.