In what may be the oddest – and most off-color – video game news in some time, the 23-year-old fatwa issued against author Salman Rushdie has been turned into a videogame, in order to educate the next generation of Islam about the “sin” of writing The Satanic Verses.
The news was announced during Iran’s second International Computer Games Expo. Little is known about the content of the game, which is currently in development under the title of The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict, although it is believed that the player’s aim is to successfully carry out the death threat issued against the author by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 following the publication of the supposedly-blasphemous Satanic Verses.
The 1988 novel depicted the prophet Mohammad at first adding and then recanting verses in the Qur’an that, Rushdie’s narrator goes on to claim, were actually the creation of the Archangel Gibreel. As a result of what was considered to be a disrespectful depiction of Mohammad, the book was banned in 12 countries (India, Bangladesh, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, Singapore, Venezuela and Pakistan), and Rushdie denounced by Islamic leaders. A year after its publication, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa demanding Rushdie’s execution for being “blasphemous against Islam,” and a bounty was placed on the author’s head as a result.
After nine years of the author being forced to live in hiding, the Iranian government finally appeared to withdraw the immediate threat in 1998, making a public commitment that it would “neither support nor hinder assassination operations on Rushdie.” Notably, however, the fatwa itself was never withdraw (Officially, fatwas can only be withdrawn by those that issued them, which is a problem for Rushdie; Khomeini died later in the same year that he issued the fatwa), and Islamic hardliners have repeatedly called for the writer’s death.
The game has apparently been in production for some time; students were actually asked to enter a contest to script the game three years ago, with the top three entries being given to developers to turn into the real thing, but little had been heard of the project since. Ahmad Khalili, the director of the student association behind the contest told the Fars news agency that the delay was merely a technical issue: “We usually don’t have any problems with initial thoughts and ideas, but when it comes to the actual point of production we experience delays,” he explained.
Some odd solace for Rushdie about the announcement can be found in the fact that he’s not alone; also announced at the same Expo was a game based on another fatwa, this time issued against rapper Shahin Najafi for releasing a song based around a religious figure. Clearly, fatwa games are big in Iranian gaming. All the thrills of a first person shooter, with a creepy extra thrill added by the fact that you’re actually chasing down someone real.