The French police had discovered in 2010 a document on the computer of Cherif Kouachi, one of the men responsible for the January 7 killings in Paris, which shows that he deemed Khomeini’s fatwa calling for the murder of author Salman Rushdie as “fully justified”.
Salman Rushdie who had authored the novel, The Satanic Verses faced reactions in the harshest manner from Iran’s theocracy. In 1989, Khomeini was struggling with a defeat in the 8-year long war with Iraq, and some 30,000 political prisoners had been killed throughout Iran. The theocrat was desperately looking for ways to distract Iranians from the real issues at home, and in Salman Rushdie, he found someone who could be made a subject of hate and anger by riling up religious sentiments. The infamous fatwa called on Muslims with access to the British writer and the publishers of his book to murder them or enable fellow Muslims to carry out the killings if they could not do so for one reason or the other.
The decree has had very real consequences. The book’s publishers in Japan, Norway, Belgium, Italy and India were attacked. In 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the novel, was stabbed and killed. Salman Rushdie to this day faces serious death threats and still requires constant security, having changed his residence no less than 30 times. The decree is yet to be reversed by the succeeding Ayatollahs. In 2005, the present current supreme leader, Ali Khomeini, reiterated the fatwa, calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie.
While people at large are threatened by a theocratic regime that has for decades now embraced and promoted religious fundamentalism, the most direct and frequent victims have been the people of Iran. A regime, such as Iran’s, which believes that it has a God-given right to rule, has no tolerance for dissent or diversity, be it from the layman or an intellectual. It strives to create a homogenous society, which requires the disposing off of those who do not fit in.
Throughout the 1990s, state-mullahs in Iran issued decrees against intellectuals, authors and artists, leading to a series of assassinations of almost a hundred of them. These decrees served the regime in several ways. Firstly, they ensured the execution of intellectuals and artists who didn’t sit well the regime. Secondly, the killings instilled fear in those who were alive, forcing to fall in line, flee or die. Thirdly, the mullahs were able to reaffirm their power, through issuing death warrants against innocent individuals.
The presence of the document in favour of Khomeini’s fatwa in Cherif Kouachi’s computer shows that borders do not restrict religious fundamentalism. The Iranian regime’s actions negatively impact people across the world, and continue to inspire zealots to carry out the killings of fellow human beings.