Downing St condemns ‘ludicrous’ Iranian suggestion Salman Rushdie to blame for attack

Downing Street has said it is “ludicrous” to suggest Sir Salman Rushdie might bear any responsibility for the attack on him.

An Iranian government official on Monday denied Tehran was involved in the assault on the author, in remarks that were the country’s first public comments on the stabbing attack.

Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, told journalists: “We, in the incident of the attack on Salman Rushdie in the US, do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusations except him and his supporters.

“Nobody has the right to accuse Iran in this regard.”

British author Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed during a public appearance in New York state. Picture: Herbert Neubauer/APA/AFP via Getty Images

Mr Kanaani added: “We believe that the insults made and the support he received was an insult against followers of all religions.”

He also implied Sir Salman brought the attack on himself.

“Salman Rushdie exposed himself to popular anger and fury through insulting the sacredness of Islam and crossing the red lines of over 1.5 billion Muslims and also red lines of followers of all divine religions,” Mr Kanaani said.

Sir Salman, 75, was stabbed on Friday while attending an event in western New York.

Iran Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani speaks in Tehran. Picture: Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP

He suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, his agent said. He was likely to lose the injured eye.

His attacker, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, has pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to charges stemming from the assault.

The award-winning author has faced death threats over his book, The Satanic Verses, for more than 30 years.

Asked about the comments from Tehran, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Clearly it’s ludicrous to suggest that Salman Rushdie was in any way responsible for this abhorrent attack on him.

“This was not just an attack on him, it was an attack on the right to free speech and expression. And the UK Government stands both by him and his family, but equally we will stand in defence of free speech around the world.”

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy condemned the comments, labelling them as “truly sickening”.

Mr Lammy said: “It is truly sickening that the Iranian government has the audacity to blame Salman Rushdie and his supporters for the brutal attack on his life.

“Salman Rushdie is an inspirational writer and a courageous defender of our values. Any attack on him is an assault on free speech and liberty.

“The UK Government must urgently put diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government to withdraw and apologise for these shameful comments.”

Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, demanding Sir Salman’s death. An Iranian foundation had put up a bounty of more than $3 million (£2.5m) for the author.

Mr Kanaani said Iran did not “have any other information more than what the American media has reported”.

The West “condemning the actions of the attacker and in return glorifying the actions of the insulter to Islamic beliefs is a contradictory attitude”, Mr Kanaani added.

Khomeini, in poor health in the last year of his life after the grinding Iran-Iraq war had decimated the country’s economy, issued the fatwa on Sir Salman in 1989.

The Islamic edict came amid a violent uproar in the Muslim world over the novel, which some viewed as blasphemously making suggestions about the Prophet Muhammad’s life.


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