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Bounty on Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie raised to almost $4 million

Celebrated British novelist Salman Rushdie has had a bounty out for his death since Iran's former leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa in 1989 over his depiction of the prophet Muhammad in his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses. Now, 40 Iranian news organizations have thrown an additional $600,000 into the pot, bringing the bounty to nearly $4 million, The New York Times reports.

Rushdie is also the author of Midnight's Children and, most recently, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. Despite the critical success of his novels, Rushdie has lived a mostly reclusive life under the protection of bodyguards since 1989.

In 1998, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said the fatwa on Rushdie had ended, although religious experts then argued that no one but Ayatollah Khomeini could withdraw the fatwa, despite the fact that he died four months after issuing it.

The media's support for Rushdie's bounty is politically charged, as elections to choose the next supreme leader of Iran are fast approaching. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is working to improve relations with the West while his opposition courts a possible leg up in the elections by stirring up the Rushdie controversy at a critical time.