A number of ultra-conservative Iranian newspapers are already praising the Salman Rushdie attacker. On Saturday a foremost state-linked outlet named Kayhan newspaper wrote: "A thousand bravos... to the brave and dutiful person who attacked the apostate and evil Salman Rushdie in New York." The publication which has close ties to the Ayatollah said, "The hand of the man who tore the neck of God's enemy must be kissed."
The Friday knife attack at a lecture hall just before the famous 75-year old author of the controversial "Satanic Verses" was set to take the stage has left Rushdie on a ventilator in a New York hospital. He underwent surgery, with a late Friday public statement by his literary agent saying, "The news is not good."
He said Rushdie is likely to lose an eye, has severed nerves in one arm, and has suffered a damaged liver - and he'll remain hospitalized in serious condition.
On Saturday morning the attacker, tackled and detained immediately after the stabbing attack on the stage of the Chautauqua Institution lecture hall, was identified as 24-year old Hadi Matar of New Jersey. According to a statement from the local district attorney:
"The individual responsible for the attack yesterday, Hadi Matar, has now been formally charged with attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree," the Chautauqua County district attorney, Jason Schmidt, said in a statement on Saturday.
"He was arraigned on these charges last night and remanded without bail," the statement added.
Though very early in the investigation, police said they believe based on what they currently know that he was "acting alone". But whether or not there may have been external links to Iranian agents will be a key factor to the investigation, given that Rushdie has had a bounty on his head issued by the Ayatollahs going back to the year after his "blasphemous" - according to how the book is viewed in the Islamic world - "Satanic Verses" came out, 1989.
Hadi Matar the man who allegedly stabbed Sir Salman Rushdie appears to be of Lebanese heritage & belongs to the Shia sect of Islam, the same as Iran.— David Atherton (@DaveAtherton20) August 13, 2022
His social media extolled the Iranian leader Ali Khamenei.
Cc @petercardwell on @TalkTV. pic.twitter.com/Qab51mP8bD
On Friday The New York Times attempted to contact Iranian foreign ministry officials:
A representative for the Iranian interests section at the embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C., which diplomatically represents the government of Iran in the United States, declined to comment on the attack. “We are not getting involved in this,” said the representative, who declined to give his name before he hung up.
An initial review of what are believed to be Matar's social media accounts strongly point to a religious motive in the attempted assassination related to the long-standing Iranian fatwa:
- A preliminary review of Matar's social media showed him to be sympathetic to "Shia extremism" and the causes of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).
- Though there are no direct links between Matar and the IRGC, investigators reportedly found images of Iranian commander Qassem Solemani, who was assassinated in 2020, in a cell phone messaging app belonging to Matar.
- Police believe Matar was "working alone". The authorities, however, are in the "process of obtaining search warrants for various items. There was a backpack located at the scene. There was also electronic devices".
Police, and likely federal investigators at this point given the potential for Iran state links, are said to be reviewing if the Fairview, New Jersey resident has a criminal record, and arefurther seeking to confirm his nationality.
🔴 Hadi Matar, 24, who stabbed Salman Rushdie had fake driver's license in name of HEZBOLLAH commander and praised Iran's Revolutionary Guard on social media https://t.co/cSHKfqv023— Amaury Brelet (@AmauryBrelet) August 13, 2022
Some reports indicate that photos of slain IRGC Quds force general Qasem Soleimani may have been found on some of his accounts:
NBC News reported that officers had found pictures of Qasem Soleimani, the charismatic former head of the Quds Force, a wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who was assassinated by the US in Baghdad in January 2020, on a cell phone messaging app belonging to Matar.
This high-profile assassination attempt on a well-known British-Indian writer comes at a moment tensions are already long on edge between Washington and Tehran, also as attempts to restore the JCPOA nuclear deal are hanging by a thread.
The Lebanese govt said he was not born in Lebanon and never visited.— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) August 13, 2022
Rushdie's 1988 novel became more famous as the controversy around it grew. It is a fictional account of an alternative history of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which much of the Muslim world - particularly hardliners - deemed blasphemy and as an attack on their faith.