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The publication of Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa of February 1989 demanding the assassination of the author of the book “The Satanic Verses”, Salman Rushdie, caused a major international crisis.


On February 14, 1989, the supreme leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, signed a decree (fatwa) urging all devout Muslims to shoot Salman Rushdie. What crime did the British-American writer of Indian origin commit to deserve such punishment? The answer in our archives.

Well! Ayatollah Khomeini does not skimp on the means to get rid of a bad Muslim. He has just sentenced the writer Salman Rushdie to death, as well as the publishers of his novel, The Satanic Verses, for what he considers to be an insult to Islam.

A quote from Bernard Derome February 14, 1989

Report by correspondent Francine Bastien on the announcement of a fatwa launched by Ayatollah Khomeini which calls for the assassination of the writer Salman Rushdie.

The host of Téléjournal summarizes in two sentences the motive of the leader of the Iranian revolution for inviting any zealous Muslim to assassinate the American-British author of Indian origin Salman Rushdie.

The report by our correspondent in London, Francine Bastien, gives us more details on what is then turning into a political and diplomatic storm all over the world.

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In September 1988, Salman Rushdie published his fourth novel,The Satanic Verses.

The book of some 500 pages uses several techniques of narration, including certain elements, real or imagined, from the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

However, a passage from the book, as reported by Francine Bastien, presents a poetic allegory alluding to certain events which took place during the existence of the founder of Islam.

This is enough to enrage Islamic fundamentalists, particularly those living in the United Kingdom.

The latter consider the novel to be blasphemous and organize demonstrations to burn it.

On February 14, 1989, the spiritual leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa ordering the assassination of Salman Rushdie.

An Iranian revolutionary foundation goes so far as to promise a reward of two and a half million dollars to see him dead.

The controversy, which had continued to swell since September 1988, turned into a political storm of international dimensions.

The British police must therefore provide reinforced protection to protect the author who now lives like a hunted man.

The threats made by Tehran against the writer subsequently pushed Great Britain to break off diplomatic relations with Iran.

More than 20 countries, predominantly Muslim, will ban The Satanic Verses.

All over the world, however, several countries and members of civil society will strongly oppose a gesture which constitutes a very significant violation of freedom of expression.

An attempt at censorship will also be launched in Canada, as reported in this report by journalist Christine St-Pierre presented at TéléjournalFebruary 17, 1989.

Report by journalist Christine St-Pierre on the attempt to ban the entry of the book “The Satanic Verses” into Canada. Suzanne Laberge hosts Téléjournal.

That day, Canadian customs had to temporarily block the arrival of Salman Rushdie's novel in the country.

She needs to examine the validity of the assertion of the Muslim Association of Ottawa which maintains that the book constitutes hate literature within the meaning of the Canadian Criminal Code.

Journalist Christine St-Pierre notes that it has suddenly become difficult to obtain a copy of Salman Rushdie's novel in Montreal.

On February 19, 1989, the federal government rejected the assertion that the book violated Canadian law and reauthorized its entry into the country.

At the same time, Ottawa unambiguously condemns the call for the murder of Iran's Salman Rushdie.

On February 18, 1989, signs of calming the controversy seemed to emerge.

From his London hiding place, Salman Rushdie publicly apologizes for the pain his novel may have caused to Muslim faithful around the world.

Initially, the Iranian government seemed to want to accept the writer's repentance.

Report from correspondent Francine Bastien on the reactions to the apologies presented by the writer Salman Rushdie following the publication of his book “The Satanic Verses”. Suzanne Laberge hosts “Téléjournal”.

But as reported in the report by our correspondent in London, Francine Bastien, presented on February 18, 1989 to Téléjournal,we later learned that Tehran had withdrawn.

Moreover, the remorse expressed by Salman Rushdie in no way mitigates the hostility of Islamic fundamentalists living in the United Kingdom towards him.

He must disown his book, otherwise his life is still in danger, says an Islamist spokesperson on British television.

The storm blew harder and harder and raged for almost 10 years.

Editors and translators of the volume were attacked, even injured or murdered, notably in Italy, Japan and Turkey.

All over the world, demonstrations and attacks are claiming victims.

On September 24, 1998, however, the tension seemed to be on the verge of resolving.

Report from host Stéphan Bureau on the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Iran.

As explained in the report by host Stéphan Bureau, presented that day at Téléjournal/Le Point, the resumption of diplomatic relations decided by the British and Iranian governments opens the way to a potential resolution of the crisis.

Iran's foreign minister vows his country will no longer help fundamentalists who try to assassinate Salman Rushdie.

His British counterpart reiterates Britain's regret for the pain that Muslims around the world have suffered because of the publication of this book.

Salman Rushdie, for his part, says he is now free and that the affair appears to be over.

However, the Iranian government does not have the powers to revoke Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa.

On August 12, 2022, Salman Rushdie was the victim of an attack, to the great joy of Muslim fundamentalists, in a small town in the state of New York.

He survives, but has very serious after-effects.

The storm caused by the publication of the book The Satanic Verseswas an enormous battle during which adversaries and supporters opposed each other of freedom of expression.

Salman Rushdie also sees it, in retrospect, “one of the greatest challenges that Islam posed to the West . »

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