Praise and concern in Iran after Rushdie attack

Iranians reacted Saturday with praise and concern after the attack on novelist Salman Rushdie, who decades ago was the target of a fatwa: an edict issued by Ayatollah Rujollah Khomeini calling for the execution of the writer and his publishers after considering that his book “ The Satanic Verses” was blasphemous against Islam.

It is unclear why Rushdie’s attacker, identified by police as Hadi Mattar, a resident of Fairview, New Jersey, stabbed the perpetrator as he prepared to speak at an event in western New York on Friday. Iran’s theocratic government and its state media have not spoken of any motive behind the attack.

But in Tehran, some people willing to speak to The Associated Press praised the attack on the writer, saying he tarnished the Islamic faith with his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses.” Images of the late Ayatollah Khomeini are still seen on the streets of Iran’s capital.

“I don’t know Salman Rushdie, but I am glad to know that he was attacked because he insulted Islam,” said Reza Amiri, a 27-year-old delivery man. “This is the fate of anyone who insults the sanctities.”

Others, however, raised concerns that Iran could further isolate itself from the world as tensions remain high over its derailed nuclear deal with international powers.

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

Khomeini, suffering from failing health in the last year of his life after the 1980s Iran-Iraq war decimated the country’s economy, issued the fatwa on Rushdie in 1989. The Islamic edict came amid a violent uproar in the Muslim world over the novel, which some saw as blasphemous in making suggestions about the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

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On Saturday, front-page headlines offered their own take on the attack. The lead article in the hard-line daily Vatan-e Emrouz headlined it: “Knife in Salman Rushdie’s Neck.” The headline of the reformist newspaper Etemad asked: “Salman Rushdie in the neighborhood of death?”.

But the 15th Khordad Foundation, which once posted a reward of more than $3 million for Rushdie, remained silent. His employees refused to speak to the AP, referring questions to an official who was not in the office.

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