Blinken: Iranian Regime-Linked Media Gloating Over Salman Rushdie Attack ‘Despicable’

( – As Salman Rushdie deals with severe injuries sustained by a knife-wielding assailant in New York state, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday described as “despicable” Iranian regime-affiliated media commentary gloating about the attack that could have killed the U.S.-based British novelist.

In earlier statements in response to Friday’s attack, neither President Biden nor National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan mentioned the word “Iran,” although Rushdie has spent more than four decades living under a death sentence issued by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the publication of his “The Satanic Verses” in 1989.

The Islamic regime has over the years made clear that Khomeini’s “fatwa” for supposed blasphemy and apostasy remains valid, with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself reaffirming as recently as 2019 that his predecessor’s religious decree sentencing Rushdie to death “is solid and irrevocable.”

Police investigators attributed no motive to the attack in which the 75-year-old author was stabbed numerous times during a lecture event at the Chautauqua Institution in northwestern New York state. His alleged assailant, Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty on Saturday to charges of attempted murder and assault.

Matar’s Facebook page, since taken down, prominently featured photos of Khomeini, Khamenei, and Qassem Soleimani, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force chief killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020.


“While law enforcement officials continue to investigate the attack, I am reminded of the pernicious forces that seek to undermine these rights, including through hate speech and incitement to violence,” Blinken said in a statement.

“Specifically, Iranian state institutions have incited violence against Rushdie for generations, and state-affiliated media recently gloated about the attempt on his life. This is despicable,” he said.

“The United States and partners will not waver in our determination to stand up to these threats, using every appropriate tool at our disposal.”

In a statement on Sunday, Rushdie’s son, Zafar Rushdie, said his father remained in a “critical condition in hospital receiving extensive ongoing medical treatment.”

“We are extremely relieved that yesterday he was taken off the ventilator and additional oxygen and he was able to say a few words. Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact.”

The family also expressed gratitude for members of the audience who rushed to Rushdie’s defense, and to police and medical staff.

‘Fires of hell’

In Tehran, the hardline Kayhan newspaper – whose editor is appointed by and serves as an advisor to Khamenei – published an article that both expressed a grim delight in the attack and accused hostile forces of trying to implicate Iran in a bid to affect the talks on reentering the 2015 nuclear deal.

It praised the attacker for having “volunteered to be the executor of the apostate, fully aware of tasting a valiant death if the trigger-happy U.S. policemen were to fire upon him.”

As for Rushdie, it said, although “his plunge into the fires of hell” may be deferred for now, since he had been brought up as a Muslim and was guilty of apostasy, “execution is the only verdict and no apology is accepted.”

Rushdie should have the courage to “submit to justice, instead of trying to avert the end of mortal life like a coward who dies a thousand deaths out of fear of death which is inescapable.”

The Kayhan writer said Iran was “proud to the place” where the fatwa was issued, but that Iran had nothing to do with the attack, and any attempt to implicate it was an effort by “the Zionist-controlled western media to try to influence Washington’s mischievous stance on the nuclear talks.”

Conspiracy insinuations involving the nuclear deal talks were also aired by Iran Daily, the IRNA state news agency, and other outlets – in some cases noting also the news earlier last week that the Department of Justice had uncovered an IRGC plot to kill former National Security Advisor John Bolton.

In his 1989 fatwa, Khomeini declared Rushdie’s book to be insulting to Islam, Mohammed, and the Qur’an.

“I call on all zealous Muslims to execute [Rushdie and his publishers] quickly, where they find them, so that no one will dare to insult the Islamic sanctity,” he said. “Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, Allah-willing.”

The death threat sent the Indian-born British author into hiding, with the British government providing protection for years. The fatwa was linked to attacks on bookstores as well as threats against the publishers. Translators were attacked in Turkey, Italy and – fatally – in Japan, and a Norwegian publisher was critically injured in a shooting.

According to a biography of Khomeini – on an official website of the supreme leader’s office – the ayatollah said after issuing his fatwa that “even if Salman Rushdie repents and becomes the most pious man of all time, it is incumbent on every Muslim to employ everything he has got, his life and wealth, to send him to hell.”

In 2012 an official Iranian religious body called the 15 Khordad Foundation raised the reward for Rushdie’s murder to $3.3 million dollars, and in 2016, several dozen Iranian institutions and media outlets led by the IRGC-affilated Fars news agency offered a combined $600,000 bounty for his death.

In 2019, Khamenei tweeted, “Imam Khomeini’s verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses, it is solid and irrevocable.”


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