The Swedish Academy

A mere 27 years after the fatwa was first issued, the Swedish Academy steps up and says it’s a bad thing.

The Swedish Academy, which selects the winners of the Nobel Prize in literature, has condemned an Iranian death warrant against British writer Salman Rushdie, 27 years after it was pronounced.

Two members quit the academy in 1989 after it refused to condemn Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini’s fatwa, or religious edict, against Rushdie for allegedly blaspheming Islam in his book “The Satanic Verses.” Citing its code against political involvement, the academy issued a statement defending free expression but without explicitly supporting Rushdie.

Well done by the two members who quit. Condemning an incitement-and-bribe to murder a writer does not have to be defined as “political involvement.”

But anyway, they’ve stepped up now.

However, in a statement posted on its website Thursday, the academy for the first time denounced the fatwa and reward money for Rushdie’s death as “flagrant breaches of international law.”

It didn’t specify what prompted its change of heart, but cited state-run Iranian media outlets’ recent decision to raise the bounty by $600,000.

“The fact that the death sentence has been passed as punishment for a work of literature also implies a serious violation of free speech,” the academy said, adding that literature must be free from political control.

Rushdie responded on Twitter, saying “I would like to thank the Swedish Academy. I am extremely grateful for its statement.”

People are murmuring that the Academy may not be finished with Salman just yet.

Kerstin Ekman, one of the members who resigned from the academy in 1989, welcomed the move.

“It took a few years but here it is. I think it is very good,” Ekman told Swedish public radio. She said she doesn’t plan to return to the academy, whose appointments are for life.

Maybe they could send her an invitation.

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