One of Iran's most senior clergymen has issued a fatwa on an Azeri writer said to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad. The call on Muslims to murder Rafiq Tagi, who writes for Azerbaijan's Senet newspaper, echoes the Iranian fatwa against Indian writer Salman Rushdie.
It was issued by the conservative Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani. The writings of Rafiq Tagi sparked recent demonstrations outside the Azerbaijani embassy in the Iranian capital, 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". They accuse the Azeri writer of portraying Christianity as superior to Islam and Europe as superior to the Middle East. They allege that he has ridiculed all the sanctities of Islam and done it knowingly, fully aware of the consequences of his action.
In response, Grand Ayatollah Lankarani is said to have issued a fatwa calling for the death of the writer and also the person responsible for publishing his articles. Earlier, an Iranian cleric had offered his house as a reward to anyone who killed the Azeri writer. But this latest fatwa comes from one of the dozen or so Grand Ayatollahs in Iran, who has a large following.
An Azerbaijani court sentenced the writer Rafiq and his publisher to two months in jail for an article which was illustrated by the same cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad originally published in Denmark that caused outcry in the Muslim world.
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