Salman Rushdie was the target of a fatwa in 1989 for his novel “Satanic Verses” but managed to escape the calls for his death in the real world. Now, the internationally bestselling author may find himself out of luck in the virtual world.
The government-sponsored Iranian Islamic Association of Students announced last week that a Salman Rushdie videogame was in the works.
Rushdie was the subject of a notorious fatwa issued by the spiritual leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who branded his book “blasphemous against Islam.”
The video game, titled “The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict”, was first announced as Tehran played host to the country’s second International Computer Games Expo.
Not much is revealed about the storyline since the videogame is still in its initial phases but the British newspaper The Guardian has speculated that the title suggests that players may get to follow through on Khomeini’s 23-year-old call for the author’s head.
Iranian officials are hoping the video game will educate younger generations about the “sin” committed by the Indian-born British author who spent years in hiding after the accusations of blasphemy against him emerged.
“We felt we should find a way to introduce our third and fourth generation to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and its importance,” student association representative Mohammed-Taqi Fakhrian told the semi-official Mehr news agency.
Iranian authorities have for several years complained of “enemies” targeting their country in a “soft and cultural” war via satellite channels, Western literature, Hollywood films and compute games. Hairstyles and clothing deemed as “Western” have also been condemned as part of the “cultural invasion.”
One of the ways Tehran is attempting to counter this is with a stronger presence in cyberspace. Mokhber Dezfouli of the country’s governing Supreme Council, said Iran has “developed around 140 games with Islamic and Iranian contents which can compete with foreign products.”
The most recent is the Iranian army’s first venture into gaming, Battle in the Gulf of Aden, a game focused on “the Iranian navy’s mighty presence in the international waters and navy commandos’ fight with the pirates,” according to Fars news agency
“The player of the game will take the role of an Iranian commando who should fight and kill pirates in the Gulf of Aden and then find and destroy their hideouts in a bid to find and kill the buccaneers’ ringleader,” Fars said.
In 2007, Iran launched the computer game Special Mission 85, about two fictional nuclear scientists, Dr. Saeed Kousha and his wife, who are abducted by American forces when they travel to Iraq for a pilgrimage to the city of Karbala.
In reality, four Iranian nuclear experts have been assassinated in the past two years.
According to Time magazine however, most of Iran’s recent video games seem to be direct responses to western-made first-person shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield 3. The latter is banned in Iran due to its depiction of a fictional U.S. attack on Tehran. Iran replied to Battlefield 3 by announcing it is creating a video game titled, “Attack on Tel Aviv.”