Twitter Suspends Khamenei's Account for Reiterating Rushdie Fatwa

Twitter limits Iranian supreme leader's handle after tweet saying that 'verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is solid and irrevocable'

File Photo: Author Salman Rushdie signs a copy of his new book 'Home' at a book signing in London, United Kingdom, June 6, 2017.
Grant Pollard,AP

Searching for the name “Salman Rushdie” produces not one single result in the Islamic News Agency website in English and the Farsi website is no better. Their search functions were working, as searching for “Salman” or practically anything else proved.

But Tehran was not ignoring the 30th anniversary of the fatwa the ayatollahs slapped on the British-Indian author for allegedly blaspheming against the Prophet Mohammed in his book “The Satanic Verses” published in 1989.

Twitter on Friday deleted a tweet on khameini_ir, an account associated with to Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, for implicitly in repeating the death threat against Rushdie. 

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“Imam Khomeini’s verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses, it is solid and irrevocable,” the account tweeted, as reported in the Washington Times. Death threats run counter to Twitter’s policy, the company told the paper. 

Twitter, which like other major social media outlets has become sensitive about being perceived as enabling hatred and violence, let alone murder, also said it would limit Khamenei’s account until it deletes the offending tweet. Indeed, there have been no posts on khamenei_ir since February 14 up to today..

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praying at the mausoleum of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in southern Tehran, on January 30, 2019.
AFP

“The Satanic Verses” has been both praised to the heavens and panned by critics, for the elegance and opacity of its narrative, respectively. More to the point, it became controversial because of its fictionalization of central tenets of Islam, not least a dream sequence in which Rushdie's fictional prophet, Mahound, was temporarily tricked into embracing polytheism in the form of the ancient goddesses Uzza, Al-Lat and Manat. 

Rushdie himself was born in India to a Muslim family and grew up in England.

The novel was condemned by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued a fatwa ordering observant Muslims to kill its author. Rushdie promptly went into hiding, and remained under police protection for around 13 years. 

In 2007 the U.K. announced that Rushdie would be awarded a knighthood for his life’s work, which triggered another round of violent clashes in the Muslim world. Undeterred by the backlash, which had been anticipated, the Queen gave him that honor in 2008, and as Sir Salman told the press: he did not regret writing "The Satanic Verses."

In 1998, years after the fatwa’s institution, the government led by President Mohammed Khatami, which was relatively liberal by Iranian terms, stated that it would not support killing Rushdie, who three years later stopped using aliases, and began living openly in New York.

However, the fatwa remained in force, and is still there. So is Rushdie. The only thing that’s been killed in this story so far, after 30 years, have been numerous rioters against the man and his book, and one tweet.