As widely reported in the media, forty Iranian state-run media outlets joined in setting a new bounty on the head of award-winning writer Salman Rushdie for writing the acclaimed novel ‘The Satanic Verses’.
At a media trade fair the organizations raised about $600,000 to add to the existing bounty, which is apparently now close to $4 million. The fatwa was initially issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, the First Supreme Leader of Iran, against Rushdie on charges of blasphemy for his acclaimed novel The Satanic Verses on February 15, 1989. He had called for the death of the book’s author along with anyone “involved in its publication.” Since then, the book’s Japanese translator was stabbed to death; both the Italian translator and Norwegian publisher survived assassination attempts. Rushdie was put under police protection and spent years in hiding while continuing to write successful other books, received a knighthood and more than two dozen awards.
It seems impossible to understand in this day and age how one book can allegedly threaten an entire population and it’s mere existence lead to such extreme measures against the author.
It seems impossible to accept such archaic measures as demanding cutting off someone’s head for what is considered among a certain people as ‘blasphemous’, a word which simply also means ‘disrespectful’ or ‘irreligious’.
Yet it is possible to understand considering the motivation of those declaring such fatwas – to exert whatever power they think they have over their flock and population, to spread fear and bend people’s birthright to freedom of expression to their narrow-minded and deluded value purposes. This is but one situation coming to the fore that Osho speaks about in regard to priests and politicians again and again:
“Life should be the supreme value. Nothing should be put above life. I call a man religious who puts life as the supreme value, and sacrifices everything to life, and never sacrifices his life to anything. Even if your country says, ‘The country is in difficulty – sacrifice your life! Become a martyr!’ don’t be foolish. Life is the supreme value. No country has any right to sacrifice a single life. It is your life, and it is only yours.
“If your religion says you are a Mohammedan and says, ‘Fight Hindus! and sacrifice your life!’ or you are a Hindu and Hinduism says, ‘Go and fight and kill the Mohammedans! Even if you are killed, don’t be worried – in heaven you will be paid well’ – don’t listen to all that nonsense. Enough is enough! Much has happened on the earth, much suffering because of these people.
“Never sacrifice your life for anything! Sacrifice everything for life! Life is the ultimate goal – greater than any country, greater than any religion, greater than any god, greater than any scripture.
“But nobody is going to say that to you, no leader is going to say that to you, because then their whole business is gone. No priest is going to say that to you, because then their whole business is gone. That’s why politicians and priests are very against me.
“If you understand me well, then do, become part of the society – you are part of the society – but do only that which is needful, never get lost.”
Osho, A Sudden Clash of Thunder, Ch 8, Q 2
Bhagawati is a regular contributor to Osho News
More articles by the same author on Osho News