Salman Rushdie stabbing divides opinion in Iran as government remains quiet

Some believe attack was justified, while others fear further isolation for Iran

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Iranians expressed mixed reactions to the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie, as the Iranian government remained quiet despite a decades-old fatwa against the writer calling for his death.

Some expressed concern that their country — already isolated from the international community after decades of Western sanctions due to Tehran's support for terror groups and its nuclear program, could be further ostracised.

But speaking to the Associated Press on Saturday, resident Bahmani said news of the attack made him happy.

“I heard the news from TV and I was so glad because the insult Salman Rushdie made against our prophet, and the fatwa Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] issued against him finally worked,” he said.

Rushdie’s attacker has been identified as US national Hadi Matar, who originally comes from Lebanon.

It is unclear yet as to whether the attacker, who was born in the US, was directly influenced by the Iranian fatwa.

Rushdie’s 1988 book The Satanic Verses drew criticism for what some viewed as a blasphemous interpretation of the Prophet Mohammed’s life. Controversy still surrounds the book 34 years after its publication.

“I don’t know Salman Rushdie, but I am happy to hear that he was attacked, since he insulted Islam,” said Reza Amiri, 27, a deliveryman. “This is the fate for anybody who insults sanctities.”

But the disdain for Mr Rushdie was not unanimous. Some Iranians felt the incident would further distance their country from the international community.

“I feel those who did it are trying to isolate Iran,” said Mahshid Barati, 39, a geography teacher. “This will negatively affect relations with many — even Russia and China.”

While fatwas can be revised or revoked, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who took over after Khomeini's death, has never done so.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has never revoked the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Reuters

“The decision made about Salman Rushdie is still valid,” Mr Khamenei said in 1989. “As I have already said, this is a bullet for which there is a target. It has been shot. It will one day sooner or later hit the target.”

As recently as February 2017, Mr Khamenei said the fatwa was still in effect.

“The decree is as Imam Khomeini issued,” he said.

Updated: August 14, 2022, 8:33 AM