He said, “We don’t consider anyone else about the attack on Salman Rushdie.” [Rushdie] And his supporters deserve blame and even condemnation,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Nasser Kanani told a televised news conference on Monday, marking the country’s first public response to the incident.
“We have not seen anything about the person who did this except what we have seen from the American media. We categorically and seriously deny any connection of the attacker with Iran,” Kanani said, according to Iranian state media.
Rushdie, an acclaimed Indian-born British author, received decades of death threats after Iran issued a fatwa, or religious edict, in 1988 following the publication of his book “The Satanic Verses.” He spent nearly a decade under British protection before moving to the United States in recent years and was repeatedly stabbed during an on-stage attack in western New York on Friday.
The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty Saturday to attempted second-degree murder and other charges.
Although Iran has not officially commented on the weekend attack, several hard-line Iranian newspapers praised the suspect on Saturday — including the conservative Kayhan newspaper, whose editor-in-chief is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“A thousand bravos, a hundred God bless. Kiss his hand… Bravo to the warrior and dutiful man who attacked the apostate and evil Salman Rushdie. Kiss the warrior’s hand. He tore Rushdie’s jugular vein,” the paper said.
Another hard-line newspaper, Khorasan, showed a photo of Rushdie on a stretcher with the headline, “The Devil on the Road to Hell”.
Rushdie — the son of a successful Muslim businessman in India — was educated in England, first at Rugby School and later at Cambridge University where he received an MA in history.
The publication of “The Satanic Verses” in 1988 made him a household name and brought him notoriety. Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him a year later.
The favor against Rushdie was never revoked, but in 1998 the Iranian government tried not to enforce it, promising to distance itself from the fatwa.
But in February 2017, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reaffirmed the religious order.
And in 2019, Khamenei tweeted that Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie was “firm and irreversible”, prompting Twitter to impose restrictions on his account.
CNN’s Lauren Said-Moorhouse contributed to this report.