Tehran, Iran – Iran has said Salman Rushdie and his supporters are to blame as it sought to distance itself from the attack last week in New York that severely wounded the writer.
“We consider no one except [Rushdie] and his supporters deserving of blame or even condemnation” for the attack, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani told reporters during a news conference on Monday.
Kanani added that Rushdie “exposed himself to public indignation” through insulting holy Islamic values and “crossing the red lines of 1.5 billion Muslims”.
“No one has a right to blame the Islamic Republic of Iran” for the attack, he said, vehemently denying reports that Tehran has had any links with the attacker, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, who pleaded not guilty in court a day after the assault.
The spokesman also accused the West, especially the United States, of exercising “double standards” when supporting freedom of expression, and said Rushdie’s undermining of Islamic values cannot be supported from religious, moral, human, or legal standpoints.
The 75-year-old Rushdie was attacked while preparing to give a lecture. His agent Andrew Wylie said the author sustained “severe” injuries but has been taken off the ventilator and has the ability to speak.
Rushdie had faced death threats for more than 30 years because of his 1988 book The Satanic Verses, which many Muslims regard as blasphemous. In addition to Iran, the book was banned in many other countries, including India and Pakistan.
In 1989, Iran’s then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious edict calling for Rushdie’s death. His successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had said as recently as 2019 that the fatwa was in effect.
Kanani’s comments came shortly after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken condemned Iran for inciting violence against Rushdie, calling it “despicable” that Iranian state institutions and state-affiliated media supported the attack.
Iranian media and newspapers have hailed the attack and praised the assailant in recent days, with ultraconservative Keyhan – whose chief is appointed by Khamenei – writing, “Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and depraved” Rushdie.
Meanwhile, state-run news website IRNA said at least one other person had tried to kill Rushdie following Khomeini’s religious ruling.
IRNA said Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh, who died after a bomb he was priming for Rushdie prematurely exploded in London in 1989, was “the first martyr” on the path of killing Rushdie. The outlet also published an image of a shrine dedicated to Mazeh in Tehran.