Iran Justifies Attack on Salman Rushdie but Denies Involvement; Blames Author and Supporters

“Satan’s eye has been blinded.” Iranian Paper Jam e Jam

Iran said Monday that Salman Rushdie and his supporters are to blame for the stabbing attack that left the famed author hospitalized with serious injuries. 

In its first public comments since the assault, Tehran denied any involvement but sought to justify the attack, which has been celebrated on front pages and in coverage across the country’s media.

“We do not consider anyone other than him and his supporters worthy of blame or even condemnation,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.

“No one has the right to accuse Iran,” he added. “The insult that was done and the support that was given was an insult to all religions.”

“By insulting the sacred matters of Islam and crossing the red lines of more than 1.5 billion Muslims and all followers of the divine religions, Salman Rushdie has exposed himself to the anger and rage of the people,” Kanaani added.

“Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and depraved Salman Rushdie in New York,” Kayhan, a hardline paper whose editor is appointed by Khamenei, said in an editorial. “Let us kiss the hands of the one who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife.”

The Guardian

The attack on Rushdie was met by global shock and outrage, and left the Western literary world reeling.

But Iranian media celebrated the incident. The front pages of state-owned newspapers were splashed with caricatures of Rushdie under headlines gloating about the stabbing.  “The devil turns blind,” read the Iranian daily newspaper Jam e Jam’s front page Sunday, above a depiction of the author as a devil without an eye. 

Rushdie’s life was reported to be out of danger but he was said to have sustained “life-changing” injuries after being stabbed 10 times when he was speaking at an event on Friday in Chautauqua, New York.

Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old New Jersey man arrested at the scene, was charged with second-degree attempted murder and assault with a weapon. A Middle Eastern intelligence official said it was “clear” that at some point prior to the attack, Matar had been in contact with “people either directly involved with or adjacent to the Quds Force,” referring to the Revolutionary Guard’s external operations force. 

Hadi Matar, 24, arrives at the Chautauqua county courthouse on Saturday. Photograph: Gene J Puskar/AP

“It’s unclear the extent of the involvement, if this was a directly supported assassination attempt or if it was a series of suggestions and directions in picking a target,” said the official, who could not speak on the record for diplomatic reasons.

“A 24-year-old born in the United States did not come up with Salman Rushdie as a target on his own,” the Middle Eastern intelligence official said. “Even an avid consumer of Iranian propaganda would have some difficulty finding references to Rushdie compared to all the other, modern enemies, designated by the regime.”

Rushdie lived under police protection for more than a decade following the 1988 publication of his novel Satanic Verses, which enraged much of the Islamic world with what was widely seen as a heretical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme leader, issued a fatwa – a religious edict – in 1989 offering a multimillion-dollar reward for Rushdie’s murder. But in the ensuing decades Iran has rarely mentioned the situation, and over time, concerns for the author’s safety faded.

NBC The Guardian and Vice