Throughout history, assassinations of political figures were done in secrecy, often recruiting assassins through covert methods. But did you know that a pornographer tried recruiting assassins by publishing an ad?
Al Goldstein, the publisher of Screw Magazine, ran an ad in 1989. He offered $1 million for the assassination of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian political and religious leader. Khomeini’s fatwa alleged novelist Salman Rushdie of blaspheming Islam.
Who was Al Goldstein?
On January 10, 1936, Alvin Goldstein was born in Brooklyn, New York. Goldstein grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Williamsburg and was known to have struggled in school and was constantly bullied. At a very young age, Goldstein took solace in pornography, reading the Tijuana Bibles.
Goldstein dropped out of school when he turned 17. He joined the army under the Signal Corps division as a photographer. He soon enrolled in Pace University after his discharge in 1958 and shortly after that was married. His first marriage was a disaster, with his wife leaving him. After this, Goldstein also took on different kinds of jobs. He was an encyclopedia salesman, taxi driver, and even a tabloid writer.
Goldstein then met Jim Buckley when he was 32. They decided to start their publication, focusing on sexual content. Their magazine, Screw, was first published in 1968. The magazine was marketed as a consumer report for sex, grading stag films, peep shows, massage parlors, and other sexually related topics previously unpublished.
Screw was the hardcore version of Playboy. Screw’s content was explicit as opposed to Playboy’s artistic efforts. Goldstein’s brand of explicit content soon built a counterculture following in the sixties and seventies. Goldstein soon moved to television, creating Midnight Blue.
Goldstein’s brand of erotica soon faced many censorship battles and many lawsuits due to its explicit nature and how it was delivered. But he was considered to have successfully shed light on previously taboo topics and helped liberalize the population.
Goldstein’s fame and money began to dwindle at the start of the 21st century. Multiple lawsuits because of his rash actions like attacking a judge and district attorney and harassing his secretary by publishing her phone number in the magazine. Goldstein was sent to Rikers Island prison for the harassment case.
At the same time, Screw’s sales decreased significantly. Goldstein tried to relaunch the brand as a website but was evicted from his leased office due to non-payment of rental fees. Goldstein soon filed for bankruptcy and became homeless. A famous comedian and admirer of Goldstein’s First Amendment activism, Penn Gillette soon helped the homeless pornographer. Gillette supported Goldstein for the remainder of his life before succumbing to renal failure on December 19, 2013. (Source: Hazlitt Magazine)
The Satanic Verses
British novelist Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses in 1988. The novel was written in a realistic magic style, focusing on two Indian Muslims living in England. The book was written by Rushdie, focusing on migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, and two different cities.
Since the two protagonists of the novel were Muslims, Rushdie incorporated a fanciful and satiric version of Islam in the story. The two Indian Muslims, Gibreel and Saladin, soon became an angel and a demon in the story. It follows their story of suffering a plane hijack as they traveled from Bombay to London.
As they transform into an angel and the other a demon, each character experiences a series of dreams. The dreams were revised versions of the history of Islam to make the story more colorful. The novel also depicts a character based on the likeness of then Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. The book caused outrage in many Muslim communities worldwide. (Source: Britannica)
Ayatollah Khomeini’s Fatwa and Assassination
In the late eighties, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s Supreme Leader, was one of the many Muslims appalled with the novel. According to critics, the book’s title was insulting Islam as it was believed that The Satanic Verses were verses about when the prophet Muhammad spoke the words of satan instead of God’s. It was also known that these verses were explicitly removed from the Qur’an.
Many Muslims have taken action against the novel. The book was publicly burned in the UK, sparked a deadly riot in Pakistan, and bookstores that sold it were bombed. Khomeini soon issued a fatwa, or a judgment issued by an Islamic Muslim, declaring Rushdie’s novel as blasphemous. He further calls on brave Muslims to find and kill Rushdie and his publishers.
This brought about Goldstein, a First Amendment fanatic, to run a full-page advertisement in his Screw magazine. The ad was looking for someone to kill Khomeini, as the fatwa against Rushdie will only be relieved soon as Khomeini dies. Goldstein offered 1 million dollars to whoever successfully assassinates Khomeini. Unfortunately, no one took his offer. (Source: History)