Oberlin Prof Under Fire For Allegedly Supporting Fatwa Against Salman Rushdie Issues Denial
Mohammad Jafar Mahallati was Iran’s UN ambassador when the fatwa was issued. Says 1989 quote in Reuters that “all Islamic countries agree with Iran” was out of context: “I have simply condemned blasphemous statements that have harmed many hearts, whatsoever the source.”
In May of this year, the Jerusalem Post uncovered a 1989 Reuters report suggesting that Mohammad Jafar Mahallati supported Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. Mahallati was then Iran’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and is currently a Professor of Religion at Oberlin College.
According to the 2022 Jerusalem Post report, Mallahati was asked in 1989 about the fatwa and whether Khomeini had the right to put a bounty on someone’s head. As reported contemporaneously by Reuters, Mahallati responded:
I think all Islamic countries agree with Iran. All Islamic nations and countries agree with Iran that any blasphemous statement against sacred Islamic figures should be condemned.
I think that if Western countries really believe and respect freedom of speech, therefore they should also respect our freedom of speech. We certainly use that right in order to express ourselves, our religious beliefs, in the case of any blasphemous statement against sacred Islamic figures.
Rushdie was stabbed multiple times in a barbaric attack on August 12, 2022, and remains hospitalized with reportedly life-altering injuries.
Wylie says Salman Rushdie is on a ventilator and cannot speak. “The news is not good," he said. "Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged." https://t.co/KtRtnVMywo
— Joumana Khatib (@joumana_khatib) August 12, 2022
Khomeini issued the fatwa in 1989 after claiming Rushdie’s 1988 novel Satanic Verses was blasphemous. Declaring Rushdie an apostate, Khomeini’s ruling was a death warrant legitimating the murder of Rushdie and of all the book’s editors and publishers. Since then, at least one of the book’s translators has been murdered, others attacked and injured, and in Turkey at least 37 people were killed in a fire evidently targeting the Turkish translator. The price on Rushdie’s head is currently worth about $3.3 million.
Iran’s former ambassador to the UN Mohammad Jafar Mahallati advocated the 1989 fatwa (decree) to assassinate the US and British writer Salman Rushdie
Now, he teaches on a US campus. @oberlincollege https://t.co/ka6zAv12V1
— Adam Milstein (@AdamMilstein) August 14, 2022
In response to LIF’s inquiry, Mahallati did not deny making the above comments but claimed they’ve been taken out of context. Mahallati’s response, in full, was as follows:
Greetings! Thank you for asking the question before wrongful judgment about my position on this unfortunate episode and an out of context quotation from me more than 30 years ago. I am and have been fundamentally and strongly opposed to any physical or verbal violence against human beings, against people’s sacred beliefs and against harmless institutions. By implication, I do not believe in an absolute freedom of speech if it is abused to harm an individual or a group of people verbally or physically. I believe it is very unfortunate that an absolutist view of the “freedom of speech” has mutually harmed a large number of Muslims and Mr. Rushdi himself.
Again, I cannot find myself in any agreement with physical or verbal violence whatsoever the context. Belief systems cannot provide an excuse for irresponsible and immoral use of pen or arms on all sides of human relations.
Presently or in the past, I have never supported any act of violence, but I have simply condemned blasphemous statements that have harmed many hearts, whatsoever the source. Therefore even in my misquoted statements there is NO support for ayatollah’s fatwa.
In case you are truly interested in my diplomatic or individual stance and record regarding violence, I invite you to look into my entire activity records in the UN Security Council in the year 1988 when I served in the United Nations. The year began with the murder of 5000 unfortunate Kurdish people with Chemical Weapons and I pressed the UN Security Council to issue TWO resolutions condemning the use of chemical weapons. I went beyond my mandate to push for peace between Iran and Iraq and managed to play a major role in the ceasefire. I convinced the Iranian government to accept the UN Human Rights Representative to visit Iran for a close enquiry about human rights, an unprecedented development since the Iranian revolution of 1979. I worked with the UN Security Council to condemn the downing of the Iranian passenger flight by an American missile which killed 299 unfortunate innocent passengers.
As you see above, that specific year was full of international violence and Mr. Rushdi’s episode was just one amongst many. So I consistently worked with the UN system to condemn all kinds of violence through historic resolutions. In the following 30 years of my academic career, I continued my stance against violence through my teachings and writings. I have produced more than 20 books in three languages on promoting global friendship, forgiveness, tolerance, gratitude and observing ethics even in wars.
In the face of these undeniable records, accusing me of supporting violence is more than a mistake.
I hope this is clear enough.
Mahallati’s current endorsement of non-violence is commendable, but readers may compare his current comments with the 1989 statement and form their own opinion as to whether his earlier statement supports violence.
The question Mahallati was answering, according to the 1989 Reuters report (as reported earlier this year by the Jerusalem Post), was whether Khomeini had the right to put a bounty on Rushdie’s head. A fair interpretation of his 1989 response is that calling for and committing violence against a ‘blasphemer’ are ‘expressive activities.’
Tragically, this Orwellian claim that murder is an “expressive” activity is what passes for received wisdom among today’s left, particularly at universities. To Islamists and the woke left, words are violence, and violence is speech.
Mahallati has also come under criticism over the past couple of years as reports surfaced that he helped cover up some of the Iranian regime’s crimes against humanity. They are described more fully in our previous reporting:
- Oberlin College’s ‘Professor of Peace’ Accused By Iranian Opposition of Covering Up Regime Crimes Against Humanity (Update: Prof. Responds)
- Protest At Oberlin College Over Professor Accused Of Helping Cover Up Iranian Mass Executions While U.N. Ambassador
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Of course he’s at Oberlin, any surprise? And, of course, being Muslim, he’s engaging in taqiya in his latest apology -taqiya: lying to the infidel.
Please note that the professor never says he opposes the fatwa. In every sentence or phrase where he offers an explanation of his statements, he qualifies it with obtuse phrasing:
“. . . wrongful judgment about my position on this unfortunate episode and an out of context quotation. . .” Nothing was taken out of context.
“. . . fundamentally and strongly opposed to any physical or verbal violence against human beings, against people’s sacred beliefs and against harmless institutions.” There is no equivalency between physical and verbal violence. Neither mainstream Islam nor the Iranian regime are harmless institutions.
“Belief systems cannot provide an excuse for irresponsible and immoral use of pen or arms on all sides of human relations.” Again, equivocating between immoral use of a pen with murder “on all sides.” He’s lying and he’s not even very good at it.
Typical of Oberlin to provide a home for second-rate so-called academics who hate Western Civilization.
Taqiyya: lying to infidels is encouraged.
Democrats: Lying to Deplorables is encouraged …. “inflation is transitory”, etc.
He might as well bark and grunt for all the sense he makes.
You could find Muslims who are decent hard working good people simply by walking down the street of Dearborn Michigan.
That the University of Oberlin felt they needed the representative of the Iranian government and that would be a good moral teaching says it all about Oberlin.
By the way we all know the Iranian government is bad, a bad person who was in the current Iranian regime is not an indictment of Islam although his being hired by Oberlin is an indictment of Oberlin.
Thank you for this interesting article that must be read very carefully.
I believe that the traditional First Amendment principles must be applied to any and all conduct within the United States. Statements made at the UN or in Iran are subject to a different set of standards and expectations.
Of course, many actions, including a ritualized attempted murder, have “expressive content.” When we prosecute someone for attempted murder, we focus upon the conduct and not the “expressive content” of the action. The accused could plead temporary insanity, self-defense and a number of other defenses, but not “expressive content.”
The more interesting and troubling question is how to regulate “murder for hire” or “conspiracy to commit murder” or even the Federal RICO statute. If I offer to pay Joe $10,000 to murder Sam, that is clearly an illegal crime. If I am the ruler of Iran and put a price on Salman Rushdie’s head, that is also a crime in the United States. When we agreed to host the UN in New York City, the US promised the UN certain limited exemptions from our laws. So, if the Iran delegate to the UN gives a speech at the UN headquarters saying “Iran offers to pay anyone $10,000 to murder Sam” the delegate has diplomatic immunity and can’t be arrested for soliciting a murder. Yet, if Joe takes him up on his offer, Joe can and should be prosecuted.
Similarly, a church or even the Oberlin campus should be protected by First Amendment rights. The First Amendment protects the preaching of a lot of crazy ideas, and the government will not interfere. But if a religion says “We believe in sacrificing a virgin by stabbing her to death in a ritualized ceremony.” the police can and should step in when they take steps to execute on their kidnapping plan.
“When we prosecute someone for attempted murder, we focus upon the conduct and not the “expressive content” of the action.”
Please. That hasn’t been true since the advent of hate crime enhancements.
That may be true, I was thinking of the showmanship displayed by the murderer in the course of his actions. Point taken.
Thank you for your great analysis, but your analysis is about the rule of law, not Islamic rules. Mahallati is clergy and knows well that FATWA is actionable and all Muslims must obey it. FATWA against Salman Rushdie was a bounty on his head with the payment in the form of Salvation, Going to Paradise, and Gods Blessings.
It is well documented that Islamic terrorists act in a terrorist manner and use language for public consumption that sounds PC for their useful idiot allies in the West
He has also, at a minimum, winked and nodded to the murder of 5,000 Iranian prisoners in 1988. That number 5,000 is firmly established in the record. I believe that he is trying a “misdirection” here by citing the murder of “5,000 Kurds” in his letter to Johanna. https://www.jpost.com/international/article-710136?utm_source=jpost.app.apple&utm_medium=share
Respectfully, he did not endorse ‘non violence’. Instead he equated harm from speech with harm from physical violence. He then used that equivalency as the basis for his support of Islamic Govt’s and people of the Islamic faith angry condemnation of Rushdie. Then he proclaimed that he was personally opposed to physical violence but failed to condemn the issuance of the Fatwa.
He understands that if he clearly condemned the Fatwa itself, instead of merely voicing opposition to physical violence in the abstract, there would be much higher personal consequences. He is attempting to thread a very narrow needle and it is past time we hold everyone accountable for their choice of phrasing in what they say and what they choose not to say.
Another devoted adherent to the Religion of Peace! Aloha Snackbar!
This is quite the teaching moment.
1) How does “the left must sympathize with the underdog” play out when you are talking about murdering someone who had to live in hiding for 10 years?
2) How do you assume that “institutions of higher education must support the expressive arts” when a faculty member advocated a killing for hire of an author because the contents of the book were disturbing to the faculty member?
3) What values are being taught at Oberlin about religious tolerance?
4) Who gets to decide what is acceptable literature and what is intolerable blasphemy?
5) Who will compensate Mr. Rushdie and the translators for their economic losses?
6) For years, the publisher of Satanic Verses was subjeced to bomb threat, That publishing firm and its staff deserve compensation as well.
As one of the members of the campaign “Justice for Mahallati’s Victims,” I like to thank you for your continuous interest in this story and for forcing Mahallati to give a response. The more people like Mahallati talk, the more their lies and hypocrisy will be displayed. I like to add a few points for your readers:
1. My brother Bijan Bazargan is one of the victims of the 1988 Massacre of the political prisoners in Iran. Seven months before the FATWA against Mr. Salman Rushdie, Khomeini issued a FATWA condemning all the political prisoners who did not repent to death. They were all hanged for the crime of apostasy and infidelity. One of Mahallati’s jobs at the United Nations was denying and covering up this crime against humanity, and I hate to admit that he was very successful in it. Mahallati knew well what a FATWA against Mr. Salman Rushdie, the publication company, translators and editors meant since he had just witnessed the consequences of one.
2. Fatwa is not a speech. It’s a ruling or decision under Islamic law and actionable. Mahallati’s statement defending the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was hate speech and incitement to violence designed to limit free speech. Mahallati knows that technically all Muslims are bound by this FATWA and must obey and make it happen. Everything else he says and his wordplays are lies and deception.
3. Mahallati himself became clergy in 2000. As someone who teaches Islamic rules to others, he can’t be against FATWA; otherwise, he is going against Islam’s jurisprudence.
As a member of the Justice for Mahalati Victims campaign, I would like to thank you for your continued attention to this story and for holding Mahalati accountable. The more people like Mahalati talk, the more their lies and hypocrisy are revealed. I would like to add a few points for your readers:
1. My brother Bijan Bazargan is one of the victims of the massacre of Iranian political prisoners in 1988. 7 months before the fatwa against Mr. Salman Rushdie, Khomeini issued a fatwa and sentenced all political prisoners who did not repent to death. All of them were hanged for apostasy and blasphemy. One of Mahalati’s jobs at the United Nations was to deny and cover up this crime against humanity, and I hate to admit that he was very successful at that. Mahalati knew well what the fatwa against Mr. Salman Rushdie, publications, translators, and editors meant because he had just seen the consequences.
2. Fatwa is not speech. This is a ruling or decision based on Sharia, and it is actionable. Mahalati’s statement in defense of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was hate speech and incitement to violence designed to limit freedom of expression. Mahallati knows that technically all Muslims are bound by this fatwa and must obey and fulfill it. Everything else he says and his words are lies and deception.
3. Mahalati himself became a cleric in 2000. As someone who teaches Islamic rules to others, he cannot oppose the fatwa. Otherwise, it is against Islamic jurisprudence.
Sending a teenager to Oberlin for schooling should be classified as child abuse