"Seyyed Hossein Khomeini, a Shi'ite Islamic cleric like his grandfather the late Ayatollah Khomeini, told the Voice of America had he been in his grandfather's shoes he 'would never have taken such an action as issuing the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.'
"In an exclusive interview that aired today, Khomeini told the VOA Persian television show News and Views that, historically, some Shiite leaders and scholars have considered themselves Velayat Faghih (supreme leaders) who expect people to abide by their verdicts, even when they involve death sentences. Although his grandfather was included in this group, he pointed out Islam accords this kind of decision-making authority only to prophets, not to ordinary people.
"Khomeini went on to say that he is open to the idea of meeting author Salman Rushdie after watching a series of interviews with Rushdie on VOA, believing that he might benefit from the writer's knowledge about religion, especially the religions in the author's native India."
Note that this is the grandson of the Ayatollah who personifies the face of Iranian clerical oppression. The important thing to realize is that teh freedom to speak out so forthrightly is a fragile one. Many muslims living in tyrannical states cannot speak freely. In iRan, the reason that such public dissent is even thinkable is precisely because the reform movement has been growing from within, a groundswell that is entirely homegrown. If, as the hard-liner neocons demand, America were to pose a military threat to Iran, rest assured that all the progress that has been won at such cost would be undone in a moment.
Contrast Iran with Iraq. Liberty cannot be granted, it can only be aided, by an external entity. If democracy takes root - as seems inevitable - in Iran, it will be far more robust than the pseudo-sovereign Iraq that will be no different from Egypt in being a US client state. Iraq is the rhetoric, Iran is the reality. Maybe.