Iran denies involvement but justifies Salman Rushdie attack

Aug 15, 2022, 12:49 AM | Updated: 10:40 pm
FILE - Salman Rushdie attends the 68th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on Nov. 15,...

FILE - Salman Rushdie attends the 68th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on Nov. 15, 2017, in New York. An Iranian government official denied on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, that Tehran was involved in the assault on author Rushdie, in remarks that were the country's first public comments on the attack. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Iranian official Monday denied Tehran was involved in the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie, though he sought to justify the attack in the Islamic Republic’s first public comments on the bloodshed.

The remarks by Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, came three days after Rushdie was wounded in New York state. The writer has been taken off a ventilator and is “on the road to recovery,” according to his agent.

Rushdie, 75, has faced death threats for more than 30 years over his novel “The Satanic Verses,” whose depiction of the Prophet Muhammad was seen by some Muslims as blasphemous.

In 1989, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, demanding the author’s death, and while Iran has not focused on Rushdie in recent years, the decree still stands.

Also, a semiofficial Iranian foundation had posted a bounty of over $3 million for the killing of the author. It has not commented on the attack.

“Regarding the attack against Salman Rushdie in America, we don’t consider anyone deserving reproach, blame or even condemnation, except for (Rushdie) himself and his supporters,” Kanaani said.

“In this regard, no one can blame the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added. “We believe that the insults made and the support he received was an insult against followers of all religions.”

Iran has denied carrying out other operations abroad against dissidents in the years since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, though prosecutors and Western governments have attributed such attacks to Tehran.

Rushdie was attacked Friday as he was about to give a lecture in western New York. He suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, according to his agent, Andrew Wylie. Rushdie is likely to lose the eye, Wylie said.

His alleged assailant, Hadi Matar, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault.

Matar, 24, was born in the U.S. to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border, according to the village’s mayor.

Matar had lived in recent years in New Jersey with his mother, who told London’s Daily Mail that her son became moody and more religious after a month-long trip to Lebanon in 2018.

“I was expecting him to come back motivated, to complete school, to get his degree and a job. But instead he locked himself in the basement. He had changed a lot, he didn’t say anything to me or his sisters for months,” Silvana Fardos said.

Village records in Yaroun show Matar holds Lebanese citizenship and is a Shiite, an official there said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns, said Matar’s father lives there but has been in seclusion since the attack.

Flags of the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, along with portraits of Hezbollah and Iranian leaders, hang across the village. Israel has bombarded Hezbollah positions near there in the past.

Police in New York have offered no motive for the attack, though District Attorney Jason Schmidt alluded to the bounty on Rushdie in arguing against bail during a hearing over the weekend.

“Even if this court were to set a million dollars bail, we stand a risk that bail could be met,” Schmidt said.

In his remarks Monday, Kanaani added that Iran did not “have any other information more than what the American media has reported.” He also implied that Rushdie brought the attack on himself.

“Salman Rushdie exposed himself to popular anger and fury through insulting the sacredness of Islam and crossing the red lines of over 1.5 billion Muslims and also red lines of followers of all divine religions,” Kanaani said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while not directly blaming Tehran for the attack on Rushdie, denounced Iran in a statement Monday praising the writer’s support for freedom of expression and religion.

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

State Department spokesman Ned Price, speaking to reporters in Washington on Monday, condemned the Iranian government for blaming Rushdie for the attack. “It’s despicable. It’s disgusting. We condemn it,” he said.

“We have heard Iranian officials seek to incite to violence over the years, of course, with the initial fatwa, but even more recently with the gloating that has taken place in the aftermath of this attack on his life. This is something that is absolutely outrageous.”

While fatwas can be revoked, Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who took over after Khomeini’s death, has never done so. As recently as 2017, Khamenei said: “The decree is as Imam Khomeini issued.”

Tensions between Iran and the West, particularly the U.S., have spiked since then-President Donald Trump pulled America out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.

A Trump-ordered drone strike killed a top Iranian Revolutionary Guard general in 2020, heightening those tensions.

Last week, the U.S. charged a Guard member in absentia with plotting to kill one-time Trump adviser and Iran hawk John Bolton. Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an aide are under 24-hour security over alleged threats from Iran.

U.S. prosecutors also say Iran tried in 2021 to kidnap an Iranian opposition activist and writer living in New York. In recent days, a man with an assault rifle was arrested near her home.

___

Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Man who survived Rittenhouse shooting seeks name change

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — The man who survived a shooting by Kyle Rittenhouse that left two others dead during a Wisconsin protest in 2020 has filed a secret petition to change his legal name because of what he now says was continued harassment related to the case. Gage Grosskreutz has called for an investigation by […]
10 hours ago
Leader of the League party Matteo Salvini blows a kiss as he joins an Italian farmers association's...
Associated Press

Right-wing leader in Italy slams Europe on energy policy

MILAN (AP) — Italian right-wing leader Matteo Salvini on Friday criticized Germany and other European Union nations for not working together on a common response to the energy crisis but instead “protecting their own interests.” “The European Union in these days, in these weeks, has been very much everyone for himself. The Spaniards protected their […]
10 hours ago
Ana and Josh MacDuff, right, and their employees pose inside their new Mountain Girl Cannabis store...
Associated Press

Vermont dispensaries to begin selling recreational marijuana

Vermont dispensaries are set to begin selling marijuana for recreational use, though only three will be ready to do so on opening weekend. FLORA Cannabis in Middlebury, Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland and CeresMED in Burlington will all open on Saturday. A fourth business has been licensed to sell recreational pot but isn’t ready to […]
10 hours ago
FILE - US Navy sailor Ryan Sawyer Mays walks past reporters at Naval Base San Diego before entering...
Associated Press

Sailor found not guilty of setting fire that destroyed ship

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Navy judge has ruled a sailor was not guilty of setting a fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego in 2020. The ruling Friday came after a nine-day trial at Naval Base San Diego. “Seaman Recruit Mays was found not guilty on the charges of willful hazarding […]
10 hours ago
This image released by Netflix shows Ty Dolla Sign as Ky, from left, Timothée Chalamet as Jimmy an...
Associated Press

Kid Cudi’s songs come to life in ‘Entergalactic’ TV feature

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi recorded the bulk of his new album, the melodic rapper wanted to visually highlight the project’s songs without depending on short music videos. The Grammy winner initially thought about turning his concept album into an anthology series, until he linked up with “black-ish” creator Kenya Barris, […]
10 hours ago
FILE - A placard in support of the European Union is seen through a European flag as demonstrators ...
Associated Press

NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts: ___ Ukrainian family killed in Russian attack, despite denials CLAIM: Grave markers for a […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Iran denies involvement but justifies Salman Rushdie attack