Rushdie's Future: Writing in Islam

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The Independent Online
Extracts from Seyyed Mohajerani's speech to the Iranian parliament on 20 August after which he was elected - by a very narrow margin - to be Minister of Islamic Guidance:

"Everybody who has accepted the Islamic Republic and our country's constitution and are living as Iranian citizens, must be subject to tolerance ... we should prepare the kind of environment in which people feel able to express their ideas in different ways in the Islamic Republic.

"Here in this parliament, a writer [Dr Abdol-Karim Soroush, a leading opposition intellectual] was talked about, and his name was used without respect. We can be against people's ideas but that does not mean we should be allowed to insult them ... we should criticise him in a respectable way ...

"I think that the books I've written show my sensitivity towards cultural invasion. How should I prove my sensitivity? I showed it by writing critically about the Satanic Verses on the very evening of February 14th [1989] that the Imam's fatwa [against Salman Rushdie] was announced over the radio ... The Imam was still alive when I started writing critically about this book in Etelaat newspaper.

"My colleagues in the office saw how, after writing this article, I collapsed in the office and couldn't move. The reason for this was that for about 40 days I couldn't sleep more than half-an-hour at night because I believed it was so important to give an answer to this book ... I wrote a book about Rushdie which was translated into Arabic and English ... yet ... you won't find any kind of insults in this book of mine.

"If I'm elected as the Islamic Guidance minister, I can tell you that I disagree almost totally with the way the ministry is being run ... Islam is not like a small, dark alley in which man ... hits his head against a wall and can't survive. Islam is like a highway, a road full of growth and happiness which a Muslim walks through all his life."