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Learning English - Words in the News
18 June, 2007 - Published 12:46 GMT
Rushdie knighthood an insult to Islam, says Tehran
Salman Rushdie

Iran has accused the British government of insulting Islam by awarding a knighthood to the author of The Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie. In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini, who was then leader of Iran, issued a fatwa, condemning the author to death. This report from Daniel Gordon:

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Few can have lived through a more dramatic change in circumstances than Salman Rushdie. Now in line to receive a knighthood for services to literature, back in 1989 he sought police protection and went into hiding. He stayed there for more than nine years.

What put Mr Rushdie in fear for his life was the order issued by Ayatollah Khomeini that he and all those involved with the publication of The Satanic Verses be put to death. Parts of the novel - such as the parallels between one of the main characters, a shady, businessman-turned-prophet, and the prophet Mohammed - were judged to be blasphemous.

The ruling by Ayatollah Khomeini led one Islamic foundation to put a bounty on Mr Rushdie's head. Soon afterwards, Britain and Iran severed diplomatic relations. Fury was vented at Mr Rushdie from outside Iran too. Several people died during protests by Muslims in the Indian city of Mumbai, and there were demonstrations in parts of Kashmir. Closer to home, there were angry protests and even death threats from some British Muslims.

Mr Rushdie was moved from one safe house to another thirty times. The threat to his life only subsided in 1998, when a new, reformist government took power in Iran and gave assurances that it no longer wished him any harm. But the fatwa has never formally been rescinded.

Daniel Gordon, BBC

Listen to the words

in line
if you are in line for something, it's your turn to get it

the rank of honour given by a British king or queen because of someone's special achievements. A knight has the right to be called 'Sir'

dishonest, having a dubious reputation

judged to be blasphemous
considered offensive to God or religion (in this case, to Islam)


to put a bounty on Mr Rushdie's head
to want Mr Rushdie dead, offering a cash award to anyone who would kill him

Fury was vented
a strong anger was expressed in a forceful way

became less strong

gave assurances
told someone that something is true, especially so that they didn't worry

the fatwa has never formally been rescinded
Ayatollah Khomeini's order (to kill Mr Rushdie) hasn't been officially cancelled

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