Iran's hardline newspapers praise Salman Rushdie's attacker

FILE PHOTO: Author Salman Rushdie arrives at the High Court in London

(Reuters) -Several hardline Iranian newspapers heaped praise on Saturday on the person who attacked and seriously wounded author Salman Rushdie, whose novel "The Satanic Verses" had drawn death threats from Iran since 1989.

There was no official reaction yet in Iran to the attack on Rushdie, who was stabbed in the neck and torso on Friday while onstage at a lecture in New York state.

However, the hardline Kayhan newspaper, whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, wrote:

“A thousand bravos ... to the brave and dutiful person who attacked the apostate and evil Salman Rushdie in New York," adding, “The hand of the man who tore the neck of God's enemy must be kissed”.

The leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, in 1989 that called on Muslims around the world to kill the Indian-born author after his book was condemned as blasphemous, forcing him into years of hiding.

In 2019, Twitter suspended Khamenei’s account over a tweet that said Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie was “solid and irrevocable”.

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 15th Khordad Foundation, a wealthy Iranian religious organisation, increased the bounty on Rushdie's head to $2.5 million in 1997, eight years after it first offered a reward. The foundation increased the amount to $3.3 million in 2012.

The foundation, among scores of bodies supervised by Khamenei's office, has not reacted publicly to the attack on Rushdie and did not immediately respond on Saturday to a Reuters emailed request for comment.

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”.

NBC New York cited law enforcement sources as saying on Saturday that the suspect in the attack, California-born Hadi Matar, was sympathetic to Shi'ite Muslim extremism and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak on Friday evening after the incident, condemned by writers and politicians around the world as an assault on freedom of expression.

(mailto:dubai.newsroom@thomsonreuters.comEditing by Frances Kerry)