Washington, D.C., April 27, 2004 -- Seyyed Hossein Khomeini, a Shi'ite Islamic cleric like his grandfather the late Ayatollah Khomeini, told the Voice of America had he been in his grandfather's shoes he "would never have taken such an action as issuing the fatwa against Salman Rushdie."
In an exclusive interview that aired today, Khomeini told the VOA Persian television show News and Views that, historically, some Shiite leaders and scholars have considered themselves Velayat Faghih (supreme leaders) who expect people to abide by their verdicts, even when they involve death sentences. Although his grandfather was included in this group, he pointed out Islam accords this kind of decision-making authority only to prophets, not to ordinary people.
Khomeini went on to say that he is open to the idea of meeting author Salman Rushdie after watching a series of interviews with Rushdie on VOA, believing that he might benefit from the writer's knowledge about religion, especially the religions in the author's native India.
Rushdie was forced into hiding for almost a decade after Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa (religious decree) that the book "The Satanic Verses" was against Islam and calling on all Muslims to kill the author and all those involved in the book's publication. News and Views concluded a six-part series of interviews with the author on April 26.
News and Views is a daily, 30-minute television show broadcast via satellite to audiences in Iran. VOA also broadcasts two other television programs to audiences in Iran: Next Chapter, a weekly newsmagazine, and Roundtable With You, a weekly 90-minute discussion show. These shows complement VOA Persian's daily radio service and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government. VOA broadcasts 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of 87 million people. Programs are produced in Persian and 43 other languages.
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