Khamenei-linked paper: 'Let us kiss the hands' of attacker

Iran media hails stabbing of ‘apostate’ Salman Rushdie, praises assailant

News outlet says attack on author, who is now on a ventilator, sends message to US officials ‘that they must fear revenge’ for killing of top Iranian general Soleimani

Author Salman Rushdie speaks during the Mississippi Book Festival, in Jackson, Mississippi, on August 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Author Salman Rushdie speaks during the Mississippi Book Festival, in Jackson, Mississippi, on August 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Iranian media and hardline supporters of the country’s religious leadership hailed Friday’s attack in New York state on author Salman Rushdie, who has faced death threats from Tehran for over three decades.

According to his agent, Rushdie was hooked up to a ventilator and may lose an eye due to the assault, in which a suspected Shia extremist stabbed the author numerous times at a literary event in the town of Chautauqua. The suspect was arrested by law enforcement.

Rushdie has been living under threat since Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious decree, calling to kill the author over his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses,” which some Muslims considered as disrespectful of the Prophet Mohammed.

Following the stabbing, a quote by Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying the fatwa was “fired like a bullet that won’t rest until it hits its target” was shared widely on social media, according to The New York Times.

“This deserves congratulation: God willing, we will celebrate Salman Rushdie going to hell soon,” conservative pundit Keyvan Saedy was quoted as tweeting.

Other conservative commentators in Iran and accounts affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps also praised the attack on Rushdie, the Times report said.

Iranian ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan on Saturday hailed the assailant who attacked Rushdie.

“Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and depraved Salman Rushdie in New York,” wrote the paper, whose chief is appointed by Khamenei.

“Let us kiss the hands of the one who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife,” the daily added.

The front pages of the Iranian newspapers, Vatan-e Emrooz, front, with title reading in Farsi: “Knife in the neck of Salman Rushdie,” and Hamshahri, rear, with title: “Attack on writer of Satanic Verses,” are pictured in Tehran, August 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

With the exception of reformist publications including Etemad, the majority of Iranian media followed a similar line, describing Rushdie as an “apostate.”

The conservative newspaper Khorasan bore a large image of Rushdie on a stretcher, its headline blaring: “Satan on the path to hell.”

The Eghtesad Salem news outlet put out a column saying the stabbing sent a message to US officials that they would be tracked down for the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January 2020, specifically mentioning former US president Donald Trump and ex-secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

“Carrying out the order to murder Salman Rushdie 33 years after it was issued sends a message to American officials that they must fear Iran’s revenge for Gen. Qassem Soleimani, until their death, even if the revenge takes 33 years,” the column reportedly said.

Iranian authorities have yet to make any official comment on the stabbing attack against Rushdie.

In Tehran, some willing to speak to The Associated Press offered praise for an attack targeting a writer they believe tarnished the Islamic faith.

“I don’t know Salman Rushdie, but I am happy to hear that he was attacked since he insulted Islam,” said Reza Amiri, a 27-year-old deliveryman. “This is the fate for anybody who insults sanctities.”

Mohammad Mahdi Movaghar, a 34-year-old Tehran resident, described having a “good feeling” after seeing Rushdie attacked.

“This is pleasing and shows those who insult the sacred things of we Muslims, in addition to punishment in the hereafter, will get punished in this world too at the hands of people,” he said.

Others, however, worried the attack — regardless of why it was carried out — could hurt Iran as it tries to negotiate over its nuclear deal with world powers.

“It will make Iran more isolated,” warned former Iranian diplomat Mashallah Sefatzadeh.

Law enforcement officers detain a person outside the Chautauqua Institution after author Salman Rushdie was stabbed at the facility, in Chautauqua, New York, August 12, 2022. (Charles Fox via AP)

Outside of Iran, global leaders voiced anger over the attack on Rushdie, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying the author “embodied freedom” and that “his battle is ours, a universal one.”

British leader Boris Johnson meanwhile said he was “appalled,” sending thoughts to Rushdie’s loved ones and praising the author for “exercising a right we should never cease to defend.”

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called it a “reprehensible attack,” adding that “all of us in the Biden-Harris Administration are praying for his speedy recovery.”

Meanwhile, it was reported that the suspect in the stabbing of Rushdie, 24-year-old Hadi Matar of New Jersey, was arrested with a fake driver’s license. A picture of the license showed the ID had the name “Hassan Mughniyah,” a combination of the first name of Hezbollah’s leader and the last name of the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group’s former military chief.

Police said they believed Matar, who was arrested at the scene and was awaiting arraignment, had been operating alone. A motive for the attack remained unclear, police said.

A law enforcement official told NBC News that, according to a review of his social media activity, the suspect had sympathies for Shia Muslim extremists and Iran’s IRGC. There were no known direct links to the IRGC.

Local police and the FBI were investigating and had closed off the street around Matar’s New Jersey home.

The attack occurred at the Chautauqua Institution, which hosts arts programs in a tranquil lakeside community 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of the city of Buffalo in western New York State.

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