Ayatollah Pun Tak Tahu Quran


I am just reading Robert Fisk’s epic and monumental 1,334 page book “The Great War For Civilisation – The Conquest Of The Middle East”. The book was first published in 2005. Robert Fisk is a world renowned British journalist (Foreign Correspondent) who has written for The Times of London and then went on to write for The Independent of the UK. He was in Kuala Lumpur not too long ago, where he gave a talk at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies.

Robert Fisk’s journalism career took off around the time of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. I was 19 years old then and had just finished my Sixth Form. His fantastic book elicits a personal recollection for me because the book covers events and over a period of time that many of us still know personally – through the newspapers, media and personal involvement. (Well in a very small way, I joined campus protests with my Palestinian friends in the US in the 80s and also visited Iraq on a humanitarian mission circa 1998 – when the Americans were still strafing and bombing their highways).

This massive book is an epic perhaps in the same category as William L. Shirer’s 1,245 page ‘The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich‘ (1960) or Thomas Carlyle’s three volume “door stop” -“The French Revolution – A History” (1837).

The major difference is that Fisk’s book is not an academic work per se. It is the recollections of a journalist who writes first hand about the things he saw, the people he spoke with and the events he witnessed by himself. It is an eyewitness record of many events in the Middle East beginning with the Iranian Revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the 10 year Iran – Iraq War, the two Gulf Wars and more.

Of course there are many, many facets to a book. We gather so much information and knowledge by reading. I was most interested (but not surprised at all) to read about Robert Fisk’s meeting with the Iranian Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkali. For those of you who are at least as old as me, Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkali was known in the media at that time as the “hanging judge“.

After the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979 and the Ayatollahs took over Iran, they conducted a purge where thousands of people (up to 10,000 or more) from the Shah’s repressive regime were executed (hung, shot, skulls cracked etc). The man in charge of sending quite a few of these people to death was Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkali. Here is a picture of the guy (he died in 2003).

On page 161 of his book Fisk writes about a new precedent that was set in Iran by Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkali’s religious courts. In July 1980, in a place called Kerman, they sentenced four people to death by stoning for sexual offenses. On page 162 Fisk describes his meeting with the Ayatollah over this ‘death by stoning’ sentence:

‘I dont know if I approve of stoning,’ Sadegh Khalkali said, flashing a grin at us journalists and at a group of startled diplomats who had also been invited to the Qasr prison. ‘But in the Koran, it is mentioned that those who commit adultery should be killed by stoning.’

Folks, the Quran says no such thing.