Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that no one has the right to press charges against Tehran over Friday’s attack on Salman Rushdie, and only he and his supporters deserve reprimand and condemnation for defaming the world’s Muslims.
A novelist who has lived under the threat of death for decades since angering Iran’s clerical authorities with his writings is recovering after being stabbed repeatedly during a public appearance in New York state.
In Iran’s first official response to Friday’s attack, ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said freedom of speech did not justify Rushdie’s insults against religion.
His 1988 novel The Satanic Verses is considered by some Muslims to contain blasphemous passages.
“(Regarding) the attack on Salman Rushdie, we do not consider anyone other than himself and his supporters worthy of … rebuke and condemnation,” Kanaani told a briefing.
“No one has the right to accuse Iran in this regard.”
Writers and politicians around the world condemned the attack.
His agent told Reuters that Rushdie suffered serious injuries, including nerve damage to his hand and a laceration to his liver, and is likely to lose an eye.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “ridiculous” to suggest Rushdie was responsible for the attack.
“This was not just an attack on him, it was an attack on the right to freedom of speech and expression,” the spokesman told reporters.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Sunday that Iran’s state institutions had incited violence against Rushdie for generations, while state-linked media gloated over the attempt on his life.
The Indian-origin writer has received a bounty on his head since the release of The Satanic Verses in 1988.
The following year, Iran’s then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or edict, calling on Muslims to kill the novelist and anyone associated with the book’s publication.
In 1991, the Japanese translator of the novel, Hitoshi Igarashi, was stabbed to death.
Igarashi’s former student on Monday renewed calls to solve his murder, the Ibaraki Shimbun newspaper reported.
A police spokesman told Reuters that the investigation was still ongoing and that the statute of limitations for the crime, which expired in 2006, could be lifted.
The novel’s Italian translator was wounded in 1991, and two years later its Norwegian publisher was shot and seriously wounded.
In 1998, Iran’s pro-reform government of President Mohammad Khatami distanced itself from the fatwa, saying the threat against Rushdie, who had been in hiding for nine years, had disappeared.
But in 2019, Twitter suspended the account of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over a tweet that said the fatwa against it was “irrevocable.”
75-year-old Rushdie has lived relatively openly in recent years.
He was about to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York about the importance of the United States as a haven for targeted artists when police said a 24-year-old man rushed the stage and stabbed him.
A spokesman for Kanaani’s ministry said Rushdie had “exposed himself to public outrage by insulting Islamic sanctities and crossing the red line of 1.5 billion Muslims.”
Kanaani said Iran has no information about the suspect in the attack on the novelist other than what has appeared in the media.
The suspect, Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault in court on Saturday, his court-appointed attorney, Nathaniel Barone, told Reuters.
An initial review by law enforcement of Matar’s social media accounts revealed that he sympathized with Shiite extremism and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), NBC New York reported.