An Oberlin College professor is facing criticism after it was revealed he endorsed the bounty Iran placed on Salman Rusdie's life in 1989 which led to the author's brutal stabbing last week.
Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, currently a professor of religion at Oberlin College in Ohio, was serving as the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations in 1989 when Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued an order calling for the death of Rushdie - an order known as a fatwa.
When asked about the fatwa in a 1989 Reuters story, Mahallati reportedly supported Iran's 'right to put a bounty on someone's head.'
'I think all Islamic countries agree with Iran. All Islamic nations and countries agree with Iran that any blasphemous statement against sacred figures should be condemned.'
Iran ordered the fatwa against Rushdie, 75, for his 1989 novel The Satanic Verses, which many in the Muslim world accused of being blasphemous against Islam. The state-sponsored bounty forced the author to live largely in hiding since its issue, and had recently climbed as high as $3million.
Last Friday Rushdie was stabbed 15 times while speaking at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York on Friday. Though the motivations of the attacker, Hadi Matar, 24, remain unclear it is suspected his attack was in response to the fatwa.
Rushdie remained and critical condition over the weekend, though his family said on Sunday he had been removed from a ventilator and was in high spirits.
Mahallati, who has taught a number of courses about 'peace studies,' in his academic career, has not commented on the murder. Oberlin College has not commented on the professor's 1989 stance on the Fatwa.
Mahallati's comments were revealed by Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad in a tweet on Friday after the attack on Rushdie.
'Guess who defends Khomeini's FATWA against #Salmon_Rushdie,' she wrote sharing a grab of the 1989 Reuters report in which the professor made his comments.
'We Iranians call on [Oberlin College] again to investigate about Mahallati the Islamic Republic's former ambassador at the UN who defends the Fatwa against Salman Rushdie. I can provide many other documents which shows his role on covering up the mass execution in 1988 in Iran.'
Alinejad is herself the target of a fatwa, according to Fox News, with Iran having issued an order that she be kidnapped from her New York City home and assassinated.
The emergence of Mahallati's comments about the Rushdie fatwa are far from the professor's first spat with controversy.
In 2018 an Amnesty International report found that Mahallati had carried out 'crimes against humanity' by covering up the massacre of 5,000 Iranians being held as dissident prisoners in 1988 while he was a diplomat for the country.
Mahallati has vehemently denied allegations of being a part of a covering, saying he did not know the executions were going on at the time.
Amidst calls from within the student body for Mahallati's ousting, Oberlin college launched an investigation into the accusation but said 'The college could find no evidence to corroborate the allegations against Prof. Mahallati, including that he had specific knowledge of the murders taking place.'
An attorney for Matar entered a not guilty plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York on Saturday. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him.
A judge ordered him held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar took steps to purposely put himself in position to harm Rushdie, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID.
Meanhwhile, on the same day Iran's deranged state media gleefully celebrated the attack on Rushdie, hailing the British author's suspected knifeman and branding the novellist an 'apostate' and 'heretic' whose book The Satanic Verses 'blasphemed' the Prophet Muhammad.