Ayatollah calls for writers' execution

A DEMAND by a senior ayatollah for the execution of two student authors of a play mocking Shia Islam has reignited the struggle between religious traditionalists and moderate reformers in post-revolution Iran.

The subject of the controversy might seem insignificant - a play that appeared in a student magazine at Tehran University, of which just 200 copies have been printed. But it bodes to become a domestic version of the Salman Rushdie affair, once more pitting reformers against conservative clerics in the run-up to next February's parliamentary elections.

At the forefront of the religious campaign is Ayatollah Hossein Mazaheri, who recent-ly reaffirmed the fatwa against Mr Rushdie, disavowed last year by the reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami. Denouncing the play's "filthy contents" Ayatollah Mazaheri demanded the young writers be put to death "under the sacred law of Islam".

Yesterday, 2,000 demonstrators rallied outside the gates of the university, demanding the execution of the "mercenary pen-holders" and the dismissal of the ministers of culture and education, both reviled by conservatives for their more pluralist views. Forced to respond, President Khatami has described the work as blasphemy. But he accused the clerical lobby of inciting controversy for their own "specific aims and ends".

The real significance of the episode is political - rekindling fierce debate over the role of a secular and free press in a country whose supreme authority is religious, as well as fears that the row over the play could lead to a fresh round of street unrest. Student riots in the summer in Tehran, provoked by the closure of the outspoken newspaper Salam, left at least three dead and 1,200 wounded. Earlier this month another reformist paper, Neshat, was closed for allegedly insulting the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border