Iran has seized on widespread Muslim outrage over a film insulting the Prophet Mohammad to revive the death threat against Salman Rushdie, raising the reward for killing him by US$500,000 (£320,000).
Ayatollah Hassan Sanei, head of a powerful state foundation providing relief to the poor, said the film would never have been made if the order to execute Rushdie, issued by the late Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had been carried out.
Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced a fatwa sentencing the author to death in 1989 after declaring his novel, The Satanic Verses, “blasphemous”, but Iranian officials later indicated it would not be implemented.
“It [the film] won’t be the last insulting act as long as Imam Khomeini’s historic order on executing the blasphemous Salman Rushdie is not carried out,” he said in a statement.
“If the imam’s order was carried out, the further insults in the form of caricatures, articles and films would not have taken place. The impertinence of the grudge-filled enemies of Islam, which is occurring under the flag of the Great Satan, America and the racist Zionists, can only be blocked by the absolute administration of this Islamic order.”
Ayatollah Saeni’s offer appeared to be an officially-sanctioned attempt by Iran to harness anger across the Muslim world over the film, which was produced by anti-Muslim Christians based in the United States. The film, which depicts the Prophet Mohammed in a derogatory manner, has provoked riots and violent attacks on western interests in several Muslim countries, including Libya, where Americans, including the ambassador, were killed.