There couldn’t be a better occasion for government and law enforcement authorities and the establishment media to end their denial and obfuscation about Islam and jihad than an attack on the world’s highest-profile “blasphemer,” but no such luck. Thirty-three years after the death fatwa was pronounced against Salman Rushdie and a bounty put on his head for (in the eyes of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini) insulting Muhammad, a Muslim named Hadi Matar stabbed Rushdie multiple times on Friday, as the 75-year-old novelist was about to give a speech at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York. Matar’s Facebook page showed that he was an open admirer of Khomeini, as well as Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, and Qasem Soleimani, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander killed in an American strike in 2020. And immediately the usual response ensued: the political elites and media talking heads closed ranks and began covering for Hadi Matar’s motivating ideology.
The New York Times reported Friday evening that “the celebrated author, who has long faced death threats, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen by a 24-year-old New Jersey man. A motive was unclear.”
Now, this capsule summary was arguably written before the identity of the “24-year-old New Jersey man” was revealed, but the idea that “a motive was unclear” was still a spectacular display of willful ignorance. Salman Rushdie is internationally famous because of the Khomeini fatwa; while it’s remotely conceivable that he could have been the target of some random attack by a deranged person, any attack on Rushdie is going to carry with it the presumption that Khomeini is finally getting what he wanted, unless there were clear and obvious evidence to the contrary, which there was not in this case. But the Times, even while mentioning that Rushdie has “long faced death threats,” doesn’t bother to explain why, or to link those threats to this attack.
The Times did explain the background of the fatwa in its article on the attack, but the article also contained this: “Major Eugene J. Staniszewski of the New York State Police identified the suspect in the attack as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old New Jersey man who was arrested at the scene, but said at a news conference late Friday afternoon that there was no indication yet of a motive.”
No indication yet of a motive? What are you waiting for, Major Staniszewski? The motive for an attack on Salman Rushdie has been clear since February 14, 1989, when the 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.”
Major Staniszewski’s reluctance to acknowledge Hadi Matar’s obvious motive stems from the same wellsprings as that of the Times. Both law enforcement authorities and the establishment media are indefatigably committed to the dogma that Islam is a religion of peace that has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. A death fatwa for alleged blasphemy against Islam, pronounced by a man for whom the attacker had a manifest and profound admiration? No, that couldn’t be the motive, because such a motive would be widely perceived as “Islamophobic,” and would give red meat to the racist, redneck, MAGA-hat-wearing yahoos who are so narrow-minded and bigoted as to oppose jihad violence and the murder of novelists for insulting pieties that they do not share. It is job one for the establishment media and the authorities to make sure that everyone has as positive an image of Islam as possible. If that means they have to go searching for a motive when the motive in this case is as obvious as the sun in the sky, so be it. The establishment narrative must be preserved at all costs.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 25 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.