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Human Rights


2006 Thursday 07 December

Mullah calls for death of blasphemous journalist – Salman Rushdie Round 2

On 1st November, an Azerbaijan newspaper published an article written by Azeri journalist Rafigh Taghi which criticized Azerbaijan and it also made comments about the prophet Mohammed. After Azeri Muslims protested against the article, criminal charges were brought against the writer and the newspaper’s editor who were sentenced to 2 months’ imprisonment for inciting religious intolerance. That penalty is not severe enough to satisfy the radical Azeri Muslims or the Islamic republic of Iran.

For the past 3 weeks, residents of the village of Nardaran, near the capital city of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Baku, have been demonstrating every single Friday since, demanding that Rafigh Taghi be severely punished for having insulted the Prophet Mohammed in the article that was published by the little-known Azerbaijani newspaper, Senet.

“Last week we, the residents of Nardaran, condemned Rafigh Taghi and the editor-in-chief of the newspaper”, said Haji Ali, a local religious leader, in a speech. “Our religion knows only one punishment for such people, which is execution. This is not our decision; this is what our holy book prescribes. The authorities sentenced the journalists to 2 weeks in custody. But that is not enough!”

Nardaran became famous after bloody clashes between its residents and police in 2002; since then, the village has become a stronghold for Shiite Islamists opposed to the government of Azerbaijan. All walls on its narrow streets are covered with religious inscriptions, and locals are keen to vent their anger against the authorities in Baku. Hajiaga Nuriev, one of the village’s elders and chairman of Azerbaijan’s Islamic Party, suggested Taghi was part of a wider conspiracy. “Both domestic and foreign forces have an interest in this,” he said. “We think that people such as Rafigh Taghi are acting on behalf of international Zionism and Armenia, and they have deliberately damaged Azerbaijan’s credibility with its brothers-in-faith. In this situation, the residents of Nardaran could not have acted otherwise…to the enemies of Islam…who discredited Azerbaijan in the eyes of the world. This blasphemy ought to be punished.”

Iran has also now joined in on the side of the Naradan Muslims. The Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani also went as far as putting a fatwa calling for the journalist's murder or execution.

The call on Muslims to murder Rafigh Taghi echoes the Iranian fatwa against Indian writer Salman Rushdie. The writings of Rafigh Taghi sparked recent demonstrations outside the Azerbaijani embassy in Teheran.

The Iranian media is reporting that Grand Ayatollah Lankarani's followers inside the republic of Azerbaijan wrote to him asking for advice about what they called "the apostate writer".

Last week the Fuehrer mullah Khamenei issued a veiled threat against Azerbaijan itself. "We remind Baku's politicians that today the Islamic Republic of Iran is powerful enough to realize historical claims of the people," said Khamenei to a crowd of military commanders in Tehran, "We are now the major force in the region that even your master, the United States, fears." Azerbaijan was a part of Iran until the early 1800’s after the signing of the Turkmanchai treaty. Khamenei added to his threat of the Azeri government and said: "There is no need for us to enter into this matter ourselves. All that is required is that our religious leaders speak of moral duties of the people in northern Iran and with no assistance, they will punish you."

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