TEHRAN -- The reward for killing Salman Rushdie has been upped to $3.3 million by a semi-official Iranian religious foundation, Iranian media reported over the weekend. The increased bounty appeared to be linked to the infuriated protests coursing through the Muslim world over a film mocking the prophet Muhammad, allegedly created by a Cerritos man now in hiding.
The protests, which have stretched from Indonesia to Nigeria and more than a dozen other countries, had already drawn parallels to the furor over the British novelist decades earlier as he releases a new memoir about living his life under threat.
Rushdie was the subject of a 1989 religious edict issued by the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, calling for the novelist to be killed after the publication of his book “The Satanic Verses.” The novel was deemed blasphemous by fundamentalist censors.
The fatwa sent Rushdie into hiding. Several of those who had published or translated the novel into other languages were attacked; its Japanese translator was murdered. An Iranian foreign minister said nine years later that the country would not enforce the fatwa, but threats have persisted as hardliners insist that the order could not be revoked by others after Khomeini's death.
The 15 Khordad Foundation, a semi-official religious foundation with strong financial backing, warned that unless Rushdie was put to death, insults against Islam would continue, according to a statement run in Iranian media. Its leader Sheik Hasan Sanei declared the group was therefore hiking its reward $500,000 from $2.8 million.Rushdie has already been in the media spotlight as his new book gains publicity. His memoir “Joseph Anton” is named for his pseudonym while in hiding after the fatwa, when he feared for his life.
Its release this week has spurred talk about how the outrage over his novel compares to the protests raging over “Innocence of Muslims,” an amateurish film that paints Muhammad as a bloodthirsty sexual deviant. In an interview with Indian television station NDTV, Rushdie called the film “stupid” and “a very highly manipulative incident.” But he concluded that as disgusting as the video was, “it’s more disgusting to attack and murder people who have nothing to do with it.”
-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles.
Photo: British author Salman Rushdie poses for photographers outside London's High Court on Aug. 26, 2008. Credit: Shaun Curry / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images.