Ayatollahs call for 'death to those who insult Koran'
TWO Iranian grand ayatollahs issued fatwas last night calling for the killing of those who insult the Koran, including anyone who burns the Islamic holy book.
No one was specified in the decrees, which were issued by Nasser Makarem-Shirazi and Hossein Nouri-Hamedani. Such an action against any individual could only be carried out with the authorisation of an Islamic religious judge, they said.
"Undoubtedly, the blood of a person who burns the Koran should be shed," Makarem-Shirazi said.
The call was made in the wake of the threat by a pastor from Florida who planned to hold a Koran-burning protest on September 11. Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre cancelled the act after an appeal by President Barack Obama.
But last night Iranian students and members of the Basij militia scuffled with riot police outside the Swiss embassy in Tehran during protests over the pastor's threat. Iran does not have diplomatic ties with the US and US interests in Tehran are handled by the Swiss embassy.
About 1,000 protesters, chanting "Death to America" and "US pastor must be killed", threw stones at the building and scuffled with 300 riot police guarding the embassy.
Although the pastor dropped his plan to burn copies of the Islamic holy book on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the plan sparked outrage. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei yesterday called it "an insane and hateful" act.
At yesterday's protests, some demonstrators were holding copies of the Koran and others wore white funeral shrouds showing they were ready for martyrdom.
US President Barack Obama appealed to Americans last week to respect the "inalienable" right of religious freedom.