Iran and Lebanon react to the attack on Salman Rushdie | New


Mixed reactions to author Salman Rushdie’s attack came from the Middle East as he fought for his life on a ventilator in New York.

An official with the Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said on Saturday he had no further information about the knife attack.

“We don’t know anything about it, so we won’t comment,” the official told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

Hezbollah is backed by Iran, whose former supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious edict in 1988 calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie for blasphemy because of his book The Satanic Verses.

He had a bounty on his head offering over $3 million to whoever killed him.

The alleged assailant was identified by police as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of New Jersey. He was charged Saturday with attempted murder and assault.

Matar and his family are from the southern Lebanese city of Yaroun, its mayor Ali Tehfe said. Tehfe said Matar’s parents emigrated to the United States and Matar was born and raised there.

When asked if Matar or his parents were affiliated with or supported Hezbollah, Tehfe said he had “no information” about the parents’ or Matar’s political views while living abroad.

‘Glad to hear it’

A bloodied Rushdie, 75, was airlifted to hospital and underwent surgery on Friday night. His agent, Andrew Wylie, said the writer was on a ventilator with a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm and an eye he was at risk of losing.

The Iranian government has not officially commented on the attack.

But in the Iranian capital, some willing to speak to The Associated Press have praised the attack on a writer who they say smeared the Islamic faith with his 1988 book. Images of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini still stare at passers-by.

“I don’t know Salman Rushdie but I’m happy to hear that he was assaulted for insulting Islam,” said Reza Amiri, a 27-year-old delivery man. “It is the fate of anyone who insults the sanctities.”

Mohammad Mahdi Movaghar, a 34-year-old Tehran resident, described having a “good feeling” after seeing Rushdie attacked.

“It is nice and it shows that those who insult the sacred things of us Muslims, in addition to punishment in the hereafter, will also be punished in this world by people,” he said.

Others, however, feared Iran could become even more cut off from the world as tensions remain high over its tattered 2015 nuclear deal.

“I feel like those who did this are trying to isolate Iran,” said Mahshid Barati, a 39-year-old geography teacher. “It will negatively affect relations with many – even Russia and China.”

Since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran has seen its currency plummet and its economy collapse. Meanwhile, Iran has enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

“This [the attack] will make Iran more isolated,” warned former Iranian diplomat Mashallah Sefatzadeh.

An Iranian boy stands in front of a banner at Tehran University in 1989 which reads ‘Salman Rushdie’s execution verdict will be executed’ [File: Reuters]

“A Thousand Congratulations”

Several Iranian newspapers on Saturday praised the person who attacked and seriously injured Rushdie.

The radical Kayhan newspaper, whose editor is appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote: “A thousand cheers…to the courageous and dedicated person who attacked the apostate and evil Salman Rushdie in New York. The hand of the man who tore the neck of the enemy of God must be kissed.

Khomeini issued the decree on Rushdie in 1989. It came amid a violent uproar in the Muslim world over his novel, which some saw as making blasphemous suggestions about the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

Although such decrees can be revised or revoked, Iran’s current supreme leader, who took power after Khomeini’s death, has never done so.

Early Saturday, Iranian state media reported that a man identified as having been killed while trying to carry out the decree. Lebanese national Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh died when a book bomb he had prematurely detonated in a London hotel on August 3, 1989, just over 33 years ago.

On newsstands Saturday, front-page headlines offered their own take on the attack. The main story of hardline Vatan-e Emrouz covered what it described as “a knife in the neck of Salman Rushdie”. The headline of the reformist newspaper Etemad asked: “Salman Rushdie in death row?

“Incitement to Violence”

Some US-based activist groups have denounced the decades-old religious edict, blaming it for the attack on Rushdie.

“Whether today’s assassination attempt was ordered directly by Tehran or not, it is almost certainly the result of the regime’s 30 years of incitement to violence against this famous author,” the Union said. national organization for democracy in Iran, based in Washington.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a banned opposition group in Iran, said the attack took place at the “instigation” of Khomeini’s decree.

“Ali Khamenei and other leaders of the clerical regime have always sworn to implement this anti-Islamic fatwa [decree] over the past 34 years,” he said in a statement.

In an interview just weeks before he was stabbed and seriously injured, Rushdie said his life was now “relatively normal” after years of living in hiding due to death threats. The magazine’s interview was supposed to appear on August 18, but German magazine Stern published it on Saturday.

Rushdie, who became a US citizen in 2016 and lives in New York, said he was concerned about threats to democracy in the United States.

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