Moments before novelist Salman Rushdie was to deliver a lecture on Friday at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, a man rushed the stage and stabbed him repeatedly before being subdued.
Rushdie was immediately airlifted to a hospital for surgery. According to The Associated Press, Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, the author’s injuries included a damaged liver and severed nerves in his arm. Additionally, he will likely lose an eye.
The man allegedly responsible for the brutal attack, identified as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested at the venue.
At his Saturday arraignment, Matar pleaded innocent to charges of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault, “with intent to cause physical injury with a deadly weapon,” according to CNN.
NBC News, citing a law enforcement source, reported “A preliminary law enforcement review of Matar’s social media accounts shows he is sympathetic to Shia extremism and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps causes.”
Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt detailed Rushdie’s injuries during the arraignment which, according to CNN, included “three stab wounds to the right side of the front of his neck, four stab wounds to his stomach, a puncture wound to his right eye, a puncture wound to his chest, and a laceration on his right thigh.”
In September 1988, Rushdie published his most famous novel, “The Satanic Verses.” The Washington Post describes the novel as a “modern-day epic that uses magical realism — a mixture of realistic narration and fantasy elements. It begins with a hijacked plane exploding over the English Channel. As two of the passengers fall from the sky, they are transformed — one into the angel Gabriel, the other into the devil. Their experiences and visions make up the rest of the story as it moves in and out of dreams.”
The Indian-born British-American Rushdie makes several “creative references — some veiled, some not — to Muhammad, Islam and the Quran,” the report noted.
Additionally, The Washington Free Beacon reported that Rushdie refers to Muhammad as “Mahound” in the novel, “a derogatory term for the prophet used by Medieval Christians.”
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In February 1989, Iran’s late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a “fatwa,” or religious edict, condemning Rushdie to death for the book, as well as “all the editors and publishers aware of its contents.” He called for “all valiant Muslims wherever they may be in the world to kill them without delay, so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth.”
The fatwa goes on to say that “whoever is killed in this cause will be a martyr, God willing.”
A multimillion dollar bounty was placed on Rushdie’s head, which has been ratcheted up on at least three occasions. The amount of the original bounty differs among media outlets, however Reuters reports that it was increased to $2.5 million in 1997 and to $3.3 million in 2012. According to a separate Reuters article published in February 2016, the 27th anniversary of the fatwa, Iranian news outlets upped the bounty by $600,000.
Following the fatwa, Rushdie spent the next nine years in hiding in London.
The novel was banned in several countries and protests and book burnings took place around the world, the Free Beacon reported. Moreover, a Japanese translator was stabbed to death in 1991 and others associated with the book were attacked.
In a 1989 interview with BBC Radio, Rushdie said, “Frankly I wish I had written a more critical book. … Religious leaders who are able to behave like this, and then say this is a religion which must be above any kind of whisper of criticism, that doesn’t add up.”
On Saturday, a Reuters article about the attack said, although there had been no official response to this news from Iran, several hardline Iranian newspapers were applauding Matar’s attack on Rushdie.
Most notable was the Tehran newspaper Kayhan, whose editor, according to Reuters, is appointed by the Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini, Iran’s supreme leader.
“A thousand bravos … to the brave and dutiful person who attacked the apostate and evil Salman Rushdie in New York,” the newspaper wrote, all but putting the official imprimatur of the Islamic Republic’s regime on a murderous act on American soil.
“The hand of the man who tore the neck of God’s enemy must be kissed.”
Other Iranian outlets followed suit, according to Reuters.
According to Reuters, an Iranian news site carried an often repeated quote by Khamenei, the current supreme leader of Iran, which says that his predecessor’s “arrow … will one day hit the target.”
Reuters noted that Twitter suspended Khamenei’s account in 2019 after he tweeted that the Rushdie fatwa was “solid and irrevocable.”
Apparently, the Iranians take fatwas quite seriously and the Biden administration would be wise to recognize this, yet President Joe Biden’s statement on the Rushdie attack didn’t even see fit to mention the words “Iran” or “terrorism.”
From Biden’s statement, the “vicious attack” on the man best known for being under a death threat from Tehran’s leaders for more than three decades appeared to come in a vacuum.
The Democrats in power in Washington, bent on pursuing a nuclear deal with the mullahs in Tehran, might want to remember that Rushdie is not the only thing the Islamic Republic wants utterly obliterated. (They have a habit of referring to the United States as “the Great Satan,” for instance, and “death to America” is practically a national motto.)
We have no idea how many hostile foreign agents have already entered the country through our open southern border. Nor do we know how many people already here are willing to heed the call of a radical theocrat on the other side of the world and bring blood.
All of this demands an answer to the question: Why does the U.S. continue to chase a nuclear deal with Iran?