Over the weekend senior officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran remained silent over the attempted murder of Salman Rushdie in New York.
Neither Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who just three years ago declared that a 1989 fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini calling for the Brotosh author's death was still active, nor President Ebrahim Raisi have passed comment since Rushdie was stabbed onstage at an event in New York on Friday.
Hardline and IRGC-aligned media outlets praised the attack in their Sunday editions, however. The ultraconservative newspaper Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief is directly appointed Ali Khamenei, inexplicably called the assault on Rushdie an “alarm bell” for those responsible for the assassination of Ghasem Soleimani in 2020.
“The attack on Rushdie shows that taking revenge on American soil is not a difficult job and from now on Trump and Pompeo must feel that they are more in danger,” an editorial said.
On its front page, the state newspaper Jam-e Jam depicted Rushdie as the devil, with his hair twisted to resemble horns, his head a balloon floating from his body and his right eye enucleated. The title was "Satan's Eye has Been Blinded".
The IRGC-affiliated newspaper Javan instead sought to absolve Khomeini and the fatwa of any blame. An editorial on Sunday speculated that Rushdie was "no longer alive and this intense secrecy about his fate shows that a pre-written scenario is unfolding” - despite the fact that Rushdie's own family said he was now breathing without a ventilator.
The same newspaper went on to suggest the "simplest and the most optimistic scenario” for the attack on Rushdie was "a young Muslim who was not born when The Satanic Verses was written has personally or, at most, as part of a small group, decided to take vengeance on him." It also speculated that the attack could have been “non-ideological and a personal settling of the accounts.”
The official government newspaper, Iran, called the attack "The inevitable destiny of organized insult to the sacred... 33 years after the fatwa by Imam Khomeini about Salman Rushdie's heresy, a non-Iranian in the heart of America has carried out the order to defend the Islamic sanctities."
Also at the weekend, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the case told NBC News that Hadi Matar, the assailant, appeared to have no direct connections to Iran, but his social media indicated support for Shia extremism and causes pushed by the IRGC. Police reportedly found pictures of Ghasem Soleimani and an Iraqi extremist sympathetic to the Iranian regime on his phone.