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Iran increases price on 'Satanic Verses' author Salman Rushdie's head by $500K

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Author Salman Rushdie lived in hiding for a decade in the wake of a fatwa issued in 1989 over his novel "The Satanic Verses." His Japanese translator was stabbed to death in 1991 and his Italian translator was injured in a stabbing that same year.

DUBAI -- An Iranian religious foundation has increased its reward for the killing of British author Salman Rushdie, in response to a U.S.-made film that mocks the Prophet Muhammad, sparking protests across the Muslim world.

Rushdie, an Indian-born British novelist who has nothing to do with the film, was condemned to death in 1989 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's late leader, over his novel "The Satanic Verses," saying its depiction of the Prophet Muhammad was blasphemous.

Khomeini's fatwa - or religious edict - was condemned in the West as incitement to murder and an assault on freedom of speech, but a wealthy Iranian religious organization has offered a large reward to anyone carrying it out and decided to increase the bounty amid the furor over the online film. 

"I am adding another $500,000 to the reward for killing Salman Rushdie, and anyone who carries out this sentence will receive the whole amount immediately," said Hassan Sanei, the foundation's head, in a statement carried by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

Unrest continued across the Islamic world as demonstrators in Pakistan broke through a barrier near the U.S. consulate in Karachi and protesters in Turkey burned a U.S. flag. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

The reward offered by the state-linked foundation now stands at $3.3 million, ISNA reported.

"Surely if the sentence of the Imam (Khomeini) had been carried out, the later insults in the form of caricatures, articles and the making of movies would not have occurred," said Sanei, who is also the foundation's representative to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Khomeini's successor as Iran's supreme leader.

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After being published in 1988, deadly riots against "The Satanic Verses" erupted in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Mumbai, India. The book was banned in South Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and several other countries.

The fatwa resulted in the writer living in hiding for a decade. Although Rushdie was never physically harmed, his Japanese translator was stabbed to death in 1991 and his Italian translator was injured in a stabbing that same year.

'Idiotic' film
Speaking on British radio before the news of the increased bounty, Rushdie called the film "idiotic ... a piece of garbage" but he also condemned violent protests against it as "an ugly reaction that needs to be named as such".

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday and several other people have died in protests around the Muslim world against the amateurish video, "Innocence of Muslims".

June 21, 2007: Protesters burn effigies of Salman Rushdie in the streets of Kashmir following Britain's decision to honor the controversial author with knighthood. MSNBC.com's Dara Brown reports.

Iranian officials have demanded the U.S. apologies for the video and say it is only the latest in a series of Western insults against the holy figures of Islam.

In 1998, under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, Iran's government distanced itself from the Rushdie fatwa, but hardline groups regularly renew the call for Rushdie's death, saying Khomeini's decree is irrevocable and eternal.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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