Remembering the Fatwa issued 23 years ago today

Nilanjana S Roy in India's Business Standard:

Khomeini-78Among the many things forgotten about the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini on Valentine’s Day 1989 is that it did not stop at naming Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. The author was condemned to death “along with all the editors and publishers aware of its contents”.

In retrospect, this was a fascinating inclusion. There was the minor matter that by including Rushdie’s editors and publishers, the Ayatollah had effectively declared war against the publishing industry in general — the typesetters who laid the book out, the printers and proofreaders, all the innocent foot soldiers caught in a battle that they had not chosen. He had also declared war against those not of the faith — if mere awareness of the contents of the Verses was a crime, then arguing that one was not of the same religion and blasphemy or apostasy did not apply was no longer a defence.

More crucially, the Ayatollah’s argument was both a curiously modern and a vengefully medieval one. His recognition that awareness itself of the contents of a controversial work was a crime was both an acknowledgement that knowledge is dangerous, and stands as an indictment of readers along with writers.

More here.