Iran’s Kayhan daily linked to the Supreme Leader said “a thousand bravos” to the man who attacked Salman Rushdie, implying that his throat should have been cut.
Kayhan is known to be close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office and its firebrand editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, is Khamenei’s appointee and representative at the flagship ultra-conservative paper.
The Iranian government has not officially reacted to the stabbing of the renowned writer who has been haunted for 33 years by a death edict issued by Iran’s former leader Ruhollah Khomeini. His book, the Satanic Verses was deemed as blasphemy against Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Government media in their reporting did not condemn or express dismay at the attack seriously injuring Rushdie, who has probably lost one eye and is still not out of danger.
“The news is not good,” Andrew Wylie, Rushdie’s representative announced. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
The official government news website IRNA praised a man who in the past had tried to kill the British-American author and indirectly praised Friday’s attacker Hadi Matar. Government media also published articles trying to justify Khomeini’s fatwa condemning Rushdie to death and used words like “apostate” to describe him.
Iran International reported on Friday that Mohammad Marandi, an American-born academic who has acted as a spokesman-cum-advisor for Iran in nuclear talks in Vienna, tweeted he would not be “shedding tears for a writer who spouts hatred & contempt for Muslims & Islam.”
Salman Rushdie speaking to an audience in 2018
Marandi called Rushdie a “pawn of empire” and suggested it was “odd” the attack should occur just as agreement on restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was “near.”
The Asr Iran news site on Saturday carried an often-cited quote by Khamenei that said the "arrow" shot by Khomeini "will one day hit the target".
The headline of the hardline Vatan Emrooz newspaper read: “Knife in Salman Rushdie’s neck”.
The Khorasan daily carried the headline: “Satan on the way to hell”.
Although US law enforcement agencies have not assigned a motive to the attacker, Fox news published a photo of his fake New Jersey driver’s license that bore the name Hassan Mughniyeh. This can offer a clue to his motive. Imad Mughniyeh was a wanted Hezbollah terror operative who was assassinated in Syria in 2008. Other reports alleged that Matar’s social media accounts show his support for the Iranian brand of Shiite causes, including support for the Revolutionary Guard.
Matar's fake drivers license
Pro-Iran and Pro-Hezbollah social media feeds began praising Matar, who was is said to have Lebanese roots, but there is still no information about his family history. One account described him as a “Lebanese hero who stabbed Satan Salman Rushdie,” according to Algemeiner.
While it is not clear if his religious beliefs led him to attack Rushdie or if he had links to any militant group, Iran’s long-standing edict to eliminate Rushdie could be a motivating force for religious extremists.
Matar who grew up in California is said to be a devout Muslim. The Daily Beast quoted a former classmate, Gabrial Sanchez as saying that while in school Matar “was a very devout Muslim,” but he never spoke about Rushdie or Iran.
The Daily Beast also reported that Matar apparently took up boxing training in April at a club. He also obtained his fake drivers license in May, which could point to some degree of planning for a violent or illegal act similar to what he eventually did on Friday.