The Iranian government denied responsibility for the attack on Salman Rushdie on Monday, saying it had never heard of the man who allegedly stabbed the author on Friday.
“No one has the right to accuse Iran,” Nasser Kanaani, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, said in his weekly press conference on Monday, adding that Iran was unaware of the alleged attacker previously.
“We know nothing about this person other than what we’ve heard in the American media,” Kanaani explained.
Rushdie, an Indian-British citizen, was stabbed during a lecture event in New York last week. Hadi Matar, 24, was identified as the suspect by police and charged with attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree. Matar pleaded not guilty to the charges in court on Saturday, according to The Associated Press. According to The Associated Press, an attorney entered the plea on his behalf.
Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s then-Supreme Leader, issued an apostasy fatwa against the author’s novel “The Satanic Verses” in 1989. The life of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, inspired the book in part. Iranian officials and others have accused Rushdie of blasphemy.
“”By insulting Islamic sacred topics and crossing red lines of both over 1.5 billion Muslims and followers of all divine religions, Salman Rushdie exposed himself to public anger,” Kanaani said on Monday. “They were all offended when someone insulted a divine prophet.””
“”No one deserves to be condemned for attacking [Rushdie] except [Rushdie] himself and his supporters,” Kanaani said.
The Iranian foreign minister stated in 1998 that the country had dropped Rushdie’s death threat, but the country’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in political decisions and religious decrees, confirmed multiple times, including in 2017, that the fatwa was still valid.
Rushdie was taken off a ventilator on Sunday and was on the “road to recovery,” according to his literary agent, Andrew Wiley.
Prior to Iran’s official response, local media appeared to be pleased that Rushdie had been stabbed. Iran Daily, which frequently reflects the government’s viewpoint, ran a story with the headline: “Satan’s neck is buried beneath the blade.”
Another newspaper, Keyhan, whose managing editor was appointed by Iran’s leader, congratulated the man who allegedly stabbed Rushdie, calling him “courageous.” It called for “a kiss on his hand who tore the neck of God’s enemy with a knife.”
Another newspaper ran a front-page story with the headline “Satan on the Path to Inferno,” with a picture of Rushdie being wheeled away on a stretcher.
According to one source who spoke with ABC News on Monday, public opinion on the stabbing may differ from the official version.
“This is a clear attack not only on a great writer, but also on free speech.” Such acts must cease,” said Sarah, an Iranian sociology student who requested that her last name be withheld for her safety. “I am overjoyed that Rushdie survived and is on the mend, and that the extremists failed to achieve their goal.”