When the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini announced a fatwa (legal opinion) against Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses, it was completely in line with the Eastern and Islamic cultural and religious tradition. As Mustafa Akyol explains in his Liberty Forum essay, Rushdie, who had neither home nor heritage in Iran, was sentenced to death there for blasphemy—a cultural and religious offense in the Near Eastern world. Akyol recounts the West’s shock as it awoke to these foreign concepts of shame, honor, and the sense of the sacred.
Reflection on Khomeini and the 1979 Iranian Revolution would not be amiss now that it has reached the milestone of four decades in power. Let me use this as an occasion to delve into some of the consequences of the revolution and the political health of that region of the world—they are of a piece.
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