Little has been heard from the renowned and notorious novelist Salman Rushdie since Aug. 12, 2022, the day that he was stabbed 15 times and severely injured while onstage at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. But now he has given his first interview since the attack, and it has become clear that even now, six months after he was viciously attacked and fully 34 years after the fatwa against him was first issued, the Western world would still prefer to ignore and deny why exactly he has been targeted and what the implications of this targeting are. In light of the fact that Rushdie is the most famous victim of Islamic blasphemy laws in the entire world, this willful ignorance is as inexplicable as it is inexcusable.
Rushdie has lost the use of his right eye, and one of his hands was severely injured. Asked how he was doing, Rushdie replied wryly, “Well, you know, I’ve been better.” Then he added, “But, considering what happened, I’m not so bad. As you can see, the big injuries are healed, essentially. I have feeling in my thumb and index finger and in the bottom half of the palm. I’m doing a lot of hand therapy, and I’m told that I’m doing very well.” He said that he could not type “very well, because of the lack of feeling in the fingertips of these fingers.” Nonetheless, he is still working: “I just write more slowly. But I’m getting there.”
On the darker side, the stabbing was, understandably enough, traumatizing: “There have been nightmares—not exactly the incident, but just frightening. Those seem to be diminishing. I’m fine. I’m able to get up and walk around. When I say I’m fine, I mean, there’s bits of my body that need constant checkups. It was a colossal attack.”
It was indeed, and it has been perfectly clear why Rushdie was attacked from the very moment it happened. The motive for an attack on Salman Rushdie has been clear since Feb. 14, 1989, when Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini wrote:
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 Qur’an, 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.
That was a long time ago. However, on the thirtieth anniversary of the fatwa, Khamenei wrote: “Imam Khomeini’s verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses, it is solid and irrevocable.”
Of course, neither Khomeini nor Khamenei attacked Rushdie at Chautauqua. The man who did, Hadi Matar, explained why he did it in no uncertain terms: “I respect the ayatollah. I think he’s a great person.” But Rushdie? Not so much: “I don’t like the person,” Matar said, referring to his victim. “I don’t think he’s a very good person. I don’t like him. I don’t like him very much. He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”
So here is someone who stabs a man who has a death sentence on his head for insulting Islam, and who expresses his admiration for the person who issued the death sentence, and his disdain for his victim because he “attacked Islam,” and despite all this, the UK’s Daily Mail repeated the words we have heard so very often about Islamic jihadis: “Matar’s motive for the attack remains unclear.”
Matar’s motive “remains unclear”? It was never unclear in the first place. It remains unclear to those who have no knowledge of the fatwa against Rushdie or of the death sentence for blasphemy in Islamic law. It remains unclear to those terminally blinkered Westerners who insist, in the teeth of ever-mounting death counts, that Islam is a religion of peace that couldn’t possibly contain any teachings that would move someone such as Hadi Matar to try to kill Salman Rushdie. But it is not now and has never been unclear to those who are willing to face reality.
This denial and willful ignorance is dangerous, because it fosters complacency in the face of a genuine threat. But the Daily Mail, and Western society in general, will likely not realize that until it is far too late for them.