Ted Cruz Views, Islamic Fatwa on Rushdie: Both 'Hard-Line' in the Eyes of the New York Times

February 24th, 2016 10:49 AM

So what’s the connection between Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz and Islamic organizations in Iran who just upped the reward for killing “blasphemous” novelist Salman Rushdie? Both are “hard-line” ideologues in the eyes of the New York Times.

NewsBusters recently demonstrated the vast disparity between unflattering “hard” labels (“hard-line” or “hard-right”) placed upon Republicans over the last seven months (58), versus the single one divvied out to Democrats (“hard-line” or “hard-left”).

On Wednesday, Thomas Erdbrink, Tehran bureau chief for the Times, filed an update on the ongoing Islamic fatwa issued against novelist Salman Rushdie -- an increase on the price on the head of Rushdie for his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, branded blasphemous by the late Ayatollah Khomeini (that nuclear deal with Iran is already working wonders!). Both the headline and Erdbrink’s story called those who reissued the fatwa as “hard-line” -- “Iran’s Hard-Line Press Increases Bounty on British Writer 27 Years Ago.” Erdbrink underlined the phrase by inserting it in his lead sentence:

A group of hard-line Iranian news media organizations says it has raised $600,000 to add to a bounty for the killing of the British novelist Salman Rushdie.

Ted Cruz’s views on immigration, and Islamic radicals’ views on assassinating novelists: Same thing.

Iran’s former supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, in 1989 calling for Mr. Rushdie to be killed because of his book “The Satanic Verses,” which the ayatollah found to be blasphemous and insulting toward Muslims. Mr. Rushdie has since then been living largely out of sight and under the protection of bodyguards.


Iranian hard-line organizations tend to make symbolic gestures involving the Rushdie fatwa every year around its anniversary, Feb. 14. Whether the bounty really would be paid is unclear. Many news organizations in Iran do not turn a profit, and some are subsidized by state organizations.

The announcement highlights the continuing political infighting in Iran as elections approach for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts, a council that would choose the next supreme leader. The government of President Hassan Rouhani has promised to improve relations with the West, while his hard-line opponents have campaigned against any opening. Analysts said the hard-liners may have been seeking an electoral edge by raising the Rushdie matter now.

“This is just to overshadow the elections, because the hard-liners and their media want to dissuade people from voting in large numbers,” said Mojgan Faraji, a reformist journalist. She said the hard-liners drag up issues from the past to confuse people and to “make other issues more important than voting.”

The Times also appears much more aggrieved about “hard-line” elected Republican officials than they are about the Islamic bounty on Rushdie, which Erdbrink laid out in studiously neutral tones.