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

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