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Tehran link to Rushdie attack: Why the world democracies need to get together

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The clerical establishment in Tehran seems to be hell-bent on imposing its own world order and all democratic states, India in particular, must get together to let the freedom of expression flourish the world over.

The stabbing of famous Indian-born British-American novelist Salman Rushdie allegedly by Hadi Matar, 24 during an event at the Chautauqua Institution in New York on Friday last is very unfortunate indeed.

Tehran link to Rushdie attack: Why the world democracies need to get together

"Observers say the linkage of this incident with the current regime in Tehran can be clearly seen. Tehran has not so far issued any categorical statement condemning the attack and the attacker. Iran's foreign ministry has been evasive on the matter. Its spokesperson Nasser Kanaani has reportedly said, "Salman Rushdie and his backers are to fault for what happened to him."

Worse, pro-state media in Iran have applauded the man who attacked Rushdie.

Salman Rushdie was lying in a pool of blood, says doctor who was in audienceSalman Rushdie was lying in a pool of blood, says doctor who was in audience

Importantly, the suspect in the case has had sympathetic ties to Shia extremism and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He is believed to have attacked Rushdie to honour the 1989 Islamic fatwa Iran's then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had ordered over the novelist's book "The Satanic Verses." Following this fatwa, the Islamic Republic also sponsored Islamic Shiite protests in Iran where followers of the Ayatollah called for the death of Rushdie.

There has hardly been any change in this fatwa against Rushdie. In 1998, the Iranian government, headed by President Mohammad Khatami, stated it would not support nor prevent the operation on Rushdie. Iran's then Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi announced in New York that Iran would not attempt to kill Rushdie. On their part, however, hardliners in Iran continued to reaffirm calls for Rushdie's death sentence. Top officials from the IRGC declared that the death sentence on Rushdie was still valid.

In 2005, Khomeini's successor Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reaffirmed the fatwa against Rushdie. He argued that the author was an apostate, whose killing would be authorized and rewarded by Islam. In 2006, Iran's proxy Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, under Hassan Nasrallah, called on Muslim followers to conduct the fatwa against Rushdie.

In 2016, several Iran-based organizations affiliated with the government raised millions of dollars for Rushdie's murder. They took to social media outlets like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram to advocate for the killing of Rushdie. In 2019, Khamenei's Twitter account said the fatwa was "solid and irrevocable."

Salman Rushdie attacker Hadi Matar 'surprised' the author survivedSalman Rushdie attacker Hadi Matar 'surprised' the author survived

The observers say the clerical establishment in Tehran seems to be hell-bent on imposing its own world order which would have no space for any independent thinking, pluralism and diversity, the very essence of democracy. All democratic states, India in particular, must get together to let the freedom of expression flourish the world over. They must stand by Rushdie who has all his life fought for this freedom. Regrettably, in the late eighties, our government , under then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Home Minister Buta Singh, had banned Rushdie's 'Verses'.

(Jagdish N. Singh is a senior journalist based in New Delhi. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, New York)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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