Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Khomeini, Salman Rushdie, and Iran-U.S. Relations

"The issue of Salman Rushdie is - no pun intended - dead."

Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1998 00:03:22 GMT
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comments="The issue of Salman Rushdie is - no pun intended - dead. The Iranians have made it clear that they don't plan on pursuing it, and in fact considering how many public appearances he makes, he would have been dead by now if the Iranians were really interested in knocking him off. The Iranian government can't really officially rescind the fatwa beacause that would be an insult to the memory of Khomeini, the father of their revolution. However, since they don't really want to enforce it either, they'd much rather just let it go away. They've done everything short of rescinding the fatwa officially to back-peddle from it.
However, SOME people like to bring it up constantly - not because they're really interested in Salman Rushdie's health - but because it makes for good bashing of Iran. They're using this issue to promote their own agenda. The Israelis for example don't want to see any kind of warming of relations between Iran and the US so they keep reviving the Salman Rushdie issue.
Needless to say, Salman Rushdie has become the poster-child of Western "freedom" etc. However, it is rather ironic that for years and years the same people who are championing the cause of free speech ignored the hundreds of Iranian writers killed and tortured and imprisoned under the US-backed Shah. Even today, there are writers who are being oppressed by US-backed totalitarian regimes - but we never hear about them, do we?
This whole thing smacks of hypocrisy."

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Dear Felix,

First of all, I care little about relations between Iran and the U.S, or even about the nation of Israel; I write not as a politico, academic, or "expert", but as a private citizen. Iranian-U.S. relations will improve, deteriorate, get better, go bad again, etc. with the precarious winds of political change. I care, but not enough to go ballistic about it, when some Godforsaken Third World country oppresses or even murders some writer for merely having written a book. That happens relatively often in this long-suffering world full of bullies! But when some wild-eyed pan-continental religious movement issues death warrants for nationals residing in other countries - even in the West, mind you! - then I get upset. It really is about Khomeini, as heinous an individual as one will find in this grim 20th century - a leader who makes the Shah look like your garden variety despot in comparison. No doubt any future Iranian government less zealous in the pursuit of Islamism will be embarrassed by l'affaire Rushdie. But I would like the entry by Khomeini of The Satanic Verses into his personal Index of Forbidden Books to remain in mind for posterity to examine, debate, and (hopefully) reprove in the harshest terms possible

Of course such a position might be hard for the current Iranian government to swallow. But I am not writing primarily for the current Iranian regime nor for the Iranian people but for everyone with eyes that can read and who has a mind with which to think -- both today and in the future. If you see other governments or religious groups calling for the transnational executions of authors, then you will hear from me again about it - no doubt.

I hope this e-mail finds you well in your studies in New York.


Richard Geib

url source: http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/burning/rushdie-hypocrisy.html

Perspective on Terrorism: Extremists do not Define Islam

We must make the distinction between the religion and the aberrant few
who do harm in religion's name.

By Salam Al-Marayati

Hostility toward Islam is rising in light of speculation that Muslim groups comprise the main suspect list in the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings. Understanding the Islamic stand against terrorism is important in dealing with this potential backlash.

The Koran, the authoritative source of Islamic law, established that justice is the highest ethical value ordained by God and that harming innocent people for any end, political or otherwise, is an unjust act violating Koranic morality: "God enjoins justice and the doing of what is good and generosity toward one's fellow people, and he forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, in addition to aggression." The authenticated traditions of Prophet Muhammad, the second source of Islamic law, stipulated the limits in rules of engagement to combatants, disallowing the soldier from harming civilians or even plants and animals.

The devout Muslim adheres to these Islamic principles; cherishing life and respecting the lives of others, while those who deviate are anything but Islamic. Yet we are bombarded by messages of "Islamic terrorism" and "radical Islamic fundamentalism." Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam has no room for terrorism. And like Christianity and Judaism, Islam has followers who violate its code of ethics in its name. Because of the void of a clear American Muslim identity, one that is emerging in this fledgling community, stereotypes fill the vacuum.

Tagging terrorism with a religious label because culprits or suspects invoke Islam in their violent and mainly personal crusades against the U.S. government is troubling for the American public and for Muslims. In the case of the terrorist attacks in East Africa, the view that this disaster represents a religious conflict is wrong. Ironically, the bombers targeted Dar es Salaam--an Islamic name meaning House of Peace--and many Muslims were among the innocent civilian victims. Some of the rescue workers, such as Rizwan Khaliq who rushed U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell to safety, were Muslim. Yet Islam is identified with the violent act and not with the victims or heroes of the tragedy.

Whoever planted the bombs had no regard for human life and did not act in accordance with any religion, even if they committed this atrocity in the name of religion. We make distinctions between Christianity and Christians who bomb abortion clinics or employ other methods of terrorism. We can measure Islam with the same yardstick.

When terrorism is prefaced with an Islamic adjective, we in America are bestowing on it the endorsement of a universal faith, inflating the prestige of terrorists. The world's 1 billion Muslims abhor violence and prefer to live in peace and security like any other community. The violent extremists, representing a fraction of this religious group, have caught the attention of the West with violence, gaining religious credibility because Islam's silent majority has no medium to articulate its perspectives.

Our inability to draw demarcations between fringe and mainstream, between populist and terrorist, between extremism and religious conviction, makes our struggle for nonviolence more difficult. In the case of the East Africa bombings and other violent acts, the criminals, not the religion, should be placed on trial.

Salam Al-marayati Is Director
of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles
Source: http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/burning/africa-bombings.html

"Jihad Is an Individual Duty"

The following is excerpted from the fatwa, or edict, of February 1998, issued by Osama bin Laden, whom U.S. National Security Advisor Samuel Berger calls the "most dangerous nonstate terrorist in the world." U.S. investigators have focused on Bin Laden as the most likely suspect behind the coordinated bombings of the U.S. Embassy buildings in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in August of 1998. At least 250 people --including 12 Americans -- and injured more than 5,000 in Nairobi. Ten people died in an almost simultaneous explosion at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam.

For more than seven years, the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples. The best proof of this is the Americans' continuing aggression against the Iraqi people, using the peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless. ...These crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his messenger and Muslims. And ulema [Muslim scholars] have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad [Holy War] is an individual duty if the enemy destroys the Muslim countries. On that basis, and in compliance with God's order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims: The ruling is to kill the Americans and their allies is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it, in order to liberate the Al Aqsa mosque [Jerusalem] and the Holy Mosque [Mecca]... This is in accordance with the words of Almighty God... We call on every Muslim who believes in God and wished to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.

Url Source: http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/burning/africa-bombings.html

Norman Mailer to Salman Rushdie

"So, my best to you, old man, wherever you are ensconced, and may the muses embrace you."

Dear Salman Rushdie,

I have thought of you often over the last few years. Many of us begin writing with the inner temerity that if we keep searching for the most dangerous of our voices, why then, sooner or later we will outrage something fundamental in the world. and our lives will be in danger. That is what I thought when I started out, and so have many others, but you, however, are the only one of us who gave proof that this intimation was not ungrounded. Now you live what must me a living prison of contained paranoia, and the toughening of the will is imperative, no matter the cost to the poetry in yourself. It is no happy position for a serious and talented writer to become a living martyr. One does not need that. It is hard enough to write at one's best without wearing a hundred pounds on one's back each day, but such is your condition, and if I were a man who believed that prayer was productive of results, I might wish to send some sort of vigor and encouragement to you, for if you can transcend this situation, more difficult than any of us have known, if you can come up with a major piece of literary work, then you will rejuvenate all of us, and literature, to that degree, will flower.

So, my best to you, old man, wherever you are ensconced, and may the muses embrace you.


Norman Mailer

Historical Background

Two months after the publication of Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" in December 1988, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran declared the book an offense to Islam and issued a fatwa that Rushdie should be killed. "Anyone who dies in the cause of ridding the world of Rushdie," the Ayatollah declared, "will be a martyr and will go directly to heaven." Rushdie, who was born in India but lived in England, was immediately placed under the protection of armed guards by the British government. The threat was genuine; bookstores that sold "The Satanic Verses were firebombed, riots ensued in areas where it was believed Rushdie was visiting, and two of the book's translators were stabbed -- one fatally -- by Muslim extremists. In the midst of it all, many prominent writers sent Rushdie letters of support and encouragement, including the following by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer.

(from "Letters of a Nation", edited by Andrew Carroll)

Url Source: http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/burning/mailer-rushdie.html

Ayatollah Khomeini and Salman Rushdie death sentence proclamation

"I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses book which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, and all involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death."

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
FATWA issued February, 1989
against Salman Rushdie

Quotes from just after the Islamic Revolution in 1979:

"The mullahs are going to rule now. We are going to have ten thousand years of the Islamic republic. The Marxists are going to go on with their Lenin. We are going to go on in the way of Khomeini." [Ayatollah Khalkhali]

"What he [Stalin] did in Russia we have to do in Iran. We, too, have to do a lot of killing. A lot."
Behzad, Iranian interpreter for [Western journalist V.S. Naipaul]

"There is no room for play in Islam... It is deadly serious about everything."
[Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Speech at Qum, reported in Timemagazine January 7, 1980]

"Khomeini has offered us the opportunity to regain our frail religion... faith in the power of words." [Norman Mailer, at a meeting of authors ragarding the fatwa, New York City, February 1989]

Source: www.rjgeib.com