“Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie, we are not considering anyone else [Rushdie] And his supporters deserve blame and even condemnation,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Khanani told a televised news conference on Monday, marking the country’s first public reaction to the incident.
“Other than what we have seen from the American media, we have not seen anything about the person who committed this act. We categorically and strongly deny any connection to the attacker with Iran,” Khanani said, according to Iranian state media.
Rushdie, an Indian-born British writer, received decades of death threats after Iran issued a fatwa, or religious edict, following the publication of his book “The Satanic Verses” in 1988. He spent nearly a decade under British protection before moving to the US in recent years and was stabbed repeatedly during an attack on stage in western New York on Friday.
Although Iran did not officially comment on the attack over the weekend, several hard-line Iranian newspapers praised the suspect on Saturday – including the conservative Kayhan newspaper, whose editor-in-chief is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“A thousand bravos, a hundred God bless. Kiss his hand…Bravo to the warrior and dutiful man who attacked the traitor and wicked Salman Rushdie. Kiss the warrior’s hand. He tore the jugular vein of Rushdie,” the paper said.
Another hardline newspaper, Khorasan, published a picture of Rushdie on a stretcher under the headline “The Devil on the Path to Hell”.
The release of “The Satanic Verses” in 1988 made him a household name and brought him fame. Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him a year later.
The bounty against Rushdie was never lifted, although in 1998 the Iranian government tried to distance itself from the fatwa by promising not to seek enforcement.
But in February 2017, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reaffirmed the religious mandate.
And in 2019, Khamenei tweeted that Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie was “firm and irrevocable”, prompting Twitter to place a restriction on his account.
CNN’s Lauren Said-Moorhouse contributed to this report.