A ‘Lebanese Hero’: Iranian Outlet Praises Assailant Behind Attempted Murder of Novelist Salman Rushdie
Hours after the assassination attempt on Friday upon the celebrated Anglo-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, pro-Iranian and pro-Hezbollah social media feeds lit up with praise for the alleged assailant, 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, NJ.
At least one prominent Iranian Twitter account associated with the website “Iran in Arabic” — which describes itself as “part of a comprehensive official Iranian media organization” — posted a graphic with a photograph of Matar placed next to one of Rushdie. The tweet described Matar as a “Lebanese hero who stabbed Satan Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, in which he insulted the Prophet of guidance and mercy, the Messenger of God, Muhammad.”
The tweet was deleted shortly after being posted, but was shared multiple times. The “Iran in Arabic” website, which was featured in the Twitter graphic, carries reports and articles from official Iranian media outlets translated into Arabic, along with information aimed at Arab citizens seeking to study or work in Iran.
The target of a “fatwa” (edict) demanding his murder issued by the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini following the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses” in 1988, regarded by Islamists as blasphemous, the 75-year-old Rushdie was stabbed several times in the neck and torso as he was about to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York. The novelist, who previously spent ten years in hiding because of the “fatwa,” was ferried by helicopter to a nearby hospital for emergency surgery.
Several other Arabic and Farsi language posts on Twitter on Friday afternoon celebrated the attack on Rushdie.
One account bearing a photograph of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, published an image of Matar being arrested by New York State Police officers, alongside a message declaring him to be the “Lebanese champion from the South who stabbed the apostate Salman Rushdie.”
Another tweet, posted alongside a video of Nasrallah speaking, declared that the “honorable fatwa has been implemented today,” adding that the alleged assassin was a “hero.”
Some commenters noted that the tweets, including the one from “Iran in Arabic,” had identified a different individual as the alleged assassin before the US media named Matar as the suspect.
Official Iranian news outlets refrained from claiming direct responsibility for the attempted slaying of Rushdie. Press TV, the regime’s English-language broadcaster, described Rushdie as “the author of a blasphemous anti-Islam book,” underlining that “Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, issued a fatwa (religious decree) calling for Rushdie’s death.”
One Iranian official told the official news agency IRNA that he was convinced the attack on Rushdie was a US “false flag” operation.
“Isn’t it odd that as we near a potential nuclear deal, the US makes claims about a hit on Bolton, and then this happens?” said Mohammad Marandi, a senior advisor to the Iranian delegation attending talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Marandi was referring to the foiled assassination attempt on former US national security adviser John Bolton, which resulted in US government charges against a 45-year-old Iranian man, still at large, who is allegedly linked to the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Revelations of the plot against Bolton came shortly after four Iranians were charged with the attempted kidnapping of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian human rights activist based in New York.
Marandi went on to express satisfaction with the attempt on Rushdie’s life. “I won’t be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam, a pawn of empire who poses as a postcolonial novelist,” he said.