While stopping short of renouncing a death sentence against
Rushdie, Iran said late last week it won't adopt any measures that
threaten the writer's life or anyone connected to his book, "The
Satanic Verses." Iran also said it would not encourage or help
anyone kill the writer.
Salman Rushdie foolishly appeared in public yesterday, believing that the death sentence against him had been lifted.
Rushie's novel has stirred emotions in Pakistan, where several years ago seven people died in violent protests against the book. Blasphemy laws in Pakistan call for the death penalty against anyone found guilty of insulting Islam.
On Saturday, hard-line Islamic groups in Pakistan criticized Iran for announcing Thursday it was distancing itself from the death sentence and a $2.5 million reward for Rushdie's death. Most of the groups were of the Sunni sect -- Islam's biggest single sect, comprising 85 percent of all Muslims.
Some of the organizations used Iran's decision to question the legitimacy of the nation's Shiite Islam, the second largest sect. Iran is the only country with an overwhelming Shiite majority.
Militant members of both sects in Pakistan have engaged in a bloody feud in which hundreds have died in recent years.
"The Iranian brand of Islam has been exposed," Sheikh Hakim, chief of Sunni Muslim militant Sipah-e-Sahaba, or the Guardians of the Friends of the Prophet, told The Associated Press. "According to Islam, Rushdie is liable to death but Iran is changing its stance for worldly gains."
The Iranian Embassy in Pakistan in a statement Saturday said the verdict of Ayatollah Khomeini still holds good and an insult to Islamic sanctities and values was not acceptable to its government.
Shah Faridul Haq, vice president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, a right-wing religious party in Pakistan's Senate or Upper House of Parliament, said there was a consensus among all Muslim sects that Rushdie should be killed.
"If Iran withdraws its decision, this means the country is contradicting its faith and fundamental principles of Islam," he said.
Saleem Qadri, a leader of hard-line Sunni Tehrik, or Sunni Movement, said a person involved in blasphemy has to be killed even if he asks for pardon.
"No one can change a fatwa because it is in line to the Holy book, (the Koran)," said Qadri.
A leader of Shiite Tehrik-e-Jafria, Allama Hussain Turrabi, said the Western media has distorted Iran's statement.
"No one has a right to scrap a fatwa. Who ever indulges in blasphemy or leaves Islam must be killed," he said.