Rushdie fatwa reaffirmed by Iranian leader in message to Mecca pilgrims

The spiritual leader of Iran has reaffirmed the fatwa against the writer Salman Rushdie in a message to Muslim pilgrims.

The spiritual leader of Iran has reaffirmed the fatwa against the writer Salman Rushdie in a message to Muslim pilgrims.

Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, declared that Rushdie was an "apostate" whose killing would be permitted by Islam. He made the comment to crowds of pilgrims on their way to Mecca.

In February 1989 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, Iran's revolutionary founder, issued the original fatwa calling for the execution of Rushdie. The edict was based on alleged blasphemy in Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses.

Yesterday, British officials played down the latest fatwa, which was reported by the Iranian media. A Foreign Office spokesman told The Times: "The key thing from our point of view is that the Iranian government formally withdrew their support for the fatwa on Salman Rushdie in 1998 which is when Britain and Iran formally upgraded their relationship to the level of ambassador."

During his address to the pilgrims, Ayatollah Khamenei said: "They talk about respect towards all religion but they support such a mahdour al-damm mortad as Salman Rushdie." The word mortad is used to describe someone who has committed apostasy by leaving Islam while mahroud al-damm refers to someone whose blood may be shed.

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