By now, everyone in the world has had their say on the attempt of Hadi Matar, a Shiite Muslim born in California and raised in New Jersey, to murder Salman Rushdie. Rushdie himself no longer needs the ventilator to which he had been hooked up. It is still uncertain if he will lose an eye. His liver has been damaged, and his right arm. But he is out of danger, and now able to speak and even to joke.
While most of the world has been appalled by the attack, in Iran the reaction was mostly one of satisfaction, or even delight, that this attempt had been made on the life of Rushdie, the man whom Ayatollah Khomeini ha in a fatwa in 1988 condemned to death for “insulting the Prophet Muhammed” in his novel The Satanic Verses:
In the name of Allah … I am informing all brave Muslims of the world that the author of The Satanic Verses, a text written, edited, and published against Islam, the Prophet of Islam, and the Qu’ran, along with all the editors and publishers aware of its contents, are condemned to death. I call on all valiant Muslims wherever they may be in the world to kill them without delay, so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth. Whoever is killed in this cause will be a martyr, Allah willing. Meanwhile if someone has access to the author of the book but is incapable of carrying out the execution, he should inform the people so that [Rushdie] is punished for his actions.
May peace and blessings of Allah be upon you.
Khomeini’s condemnation had been reconfirmed in a 2019 tweet by Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, endorsing his predecessor’s murderous fatwa against author Salman Rushdie:
Imam Khomenei’s verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses it is solid and irrevocable.”
A report on the Iranian response to the attack on Rushdie is here: “Iran media hails stabbing of ‘apostate’ Salman Rushdie, praises assailant,” Times of Israel, August 13, 2022:
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.
The Iranian ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan on Saturday [August 13] 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.
With the exception of reformist publications including Etemad, the majority of Iranian media followed a similar line, describing Rushdie as an “apostate.”
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 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.
In Tehran, some willing to speak to The Associated Press offered praise for an attack targeting a writer they believe tarnished the Islamic faith.…
The overwhelming sentiment in Iran has been one of deep satisfaction that someone had tried to kill Rushdie, and no doubt calls will be renewed for someone else to emulate Hadi Matar and to finish the job of killing Rushdie. One dissenting voice, the Iranian diplomat, Mashallah Sefatzadeh, does not deplore the stabbing of Rushdie as an outrage; he thinks only of how it could damage Iran by making the country “more isolated.” It’s a practical worry, not a moral objection.
The expected banalities were offered by Western leaders, ranging from Hallmark card get-well sentiments – “wishing you a speedy recovery” – to statements of support for upholding “our values” or “universal values” against those who for some mysterious reason would attack them. But none of the Western leaders forthrightly explained that the reason Hadi Matar tried to kill Salman Rushdie is because he, like so many Muslims from Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei on down, was outraged at Rushdie’s lack of respect for their Prophet, which amounts to apostasy; Matar believed that he had a right to “strike at the neck” (Qur’an 47:4) of this apostate.
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.
Hadi Matar may have “acted alone” in doing the deed, but he was not alone in his murderous desire. He was prompted by the letter and spirit of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, who 33 years ago had issued his famous fatwa against Rushdie, calling for his death because the writer had, in The Satanic Verses, been distinctly disrespectful of Muhammad. Tens of millions of Iranian Muslims, and many Lebanese Shi’a, were with Hadi Matar in spirit, delighted at his deed, and hailing him as a “hero” for his savagery. Much mafficking was observed throughout Muslim Iran, though as of this writing, the government in Tehran has refrained from public praise, saying only that it had no role in the attack. Many would disagree: the Iranian rulers’ original fatwa of 1988 and its confirmation in 2019 surely deeply implicate official Iran. Without that fatwa, Hadi Matar would never have taken it upon himself to try to kill Rushdie.
Hezbollah supporters, too, hailed the attack on social media, accompanying posts about it with the hashtag “holy stabbing.” They also lauded the assailant as a “hero.” In the mainstream media, the claims of both Iran and Hezbollah that they had “nothing to do” with the attack have been reported, but not the praise by Iranians and Hezbollah members on social media for Matar’s “heroism.”
Here is Biden’s original remark about the attack:
Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society. And today, we reaffirm our commitment to those deeply American values in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who stand for freedom of expression.
No mention was made by any of the Bidenites of the Qur’anic injunction to consider an apostate anyone who treats the Prophet Muhammad without due respect, or about the appropriate punishment for him. Muslims are instructed in Quran 47:4 to “strike at the neck” of anyone who is, or has become, an apostate, or unbeliever: “when you meet the unbelievers, strike their necks”; which is exactly what Hadi Matar tried to do to the apostate Salman Rushdie on August 12 .
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.
So Hadi Matar had been on social media openly expressing his sympathy for the IRGC and Shia extremists. Despite the gigantic bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security, on which more than one trillion dollars has been spent since 2001, no one at the agency apparently was aware of Hadi Matar’s posts. He was off their radar. This does not inspire confidence in DHS.
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.
Rushdie gradually emerged from his underground life in 1991, but his Japanese translator was killed in July that year.
His Italian translator was stabbed a few days later and a Norwegian publisher shot two years later.
In 1993, Islamist protesters torched a hotel in Sivas in central Turkey, some of whom were angered by the presence of writer Aziz Nesin, who sought to translate the novel into Turkish. He escaped but 37 people were killed.
While Rushdie himself escaped attack until this August in Chautauqua, in the past several of the translators of The Satanic Verses were severely wounded or killed, and one of his publishers was shot. It’s important to remember these attacks, as so many of the latest accounts about the attack on Rushdie make it appear that since Khomeini’s 1988 fatwa, no one has been harmed.
It’s not too soon for Biden to issue another statement on the attack. He should not be afraid to allude to Islam as the prompt for Matar’s atrocity. It might go something like this: “I am glad to learn that Salman Rushdie is out of danger. His would-be killer was apparently prompted by a fanatical faith, the same faith that led Ayatollah Khomeini to issue his murderous fatwa on Rushdie in 1988, or that prompted the killers of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. No religious belief can justify murder, and we expect the government of Iran, where many have been celebrating the attack, to forthrightly condemn it.”
It won’t happen, of course. But it puts Iran’s rulers on the spot, which is where they belong. And it might cause those still hellbent on reinstating the JCPOA agreement with Iran to reconsider.