The Iranian Foreign Ministry has said the blasphemous author Salman Rushdie is to blame for the attack he was subjected to on Friday because he denigrated the world’s Muslims.
In the first official comments on the stabbing which has left The Satanic Verses author with life-changing injuries, the foreign ministry said no one has the right to level accusations against Iran.
Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said freedom of speech did not justify Rushdie’s insults against religion.
“During the attack on Salman Rushdie, we do not consider anyone other than himself and his supporters worthy of …reproach and condemnation,” Kanaani told a news briefing. “No one has the right to accuse Iran in this regard.”
Kanaani said Rushdie had “exposed himself to popular outrage by insulting Islamic sanctities and crossing the red lines of 1.5 billion Muslims.”
He added that Iran had no other information about the novelist’s suspected assailant except what had appeared in media.
The suspect, Hadi Matar, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault at a court appearance on Saturday. An initial law enforcement review of Matar’s social media accounts showed he was sympathetic to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Matar’s family is from south Lebanon, which is a stronghold of Hezbollah which supports Iran. But Hezbollah has said it has no additional information on Friday’s attack.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Iranian state institutions had incited violence against Rushdie for generations, and state-affiliated media had gloated about the attempt on his life.
Rushdie has had a bounty on his head since “The Satanic Verses” was published in 1988. The following year, Iran’s then leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill the novelist and anyone involved in the book’s publication.
In 1998, Iran’s pro-reform government of President Mohammad Khatami distanced itself from the fatwa, saying the threat against Rushdie was over. However, the fatwa has never been officially rescinded.