Salman Rushdie attacker 'sympathetic to Shia extremism' says New York state police

Salman Rushdie attacker 'sympathetic to Shia extremism' says New York state police
Police said the exact motives of the attacker, who was not born when Iran's fatwa against Rushdie was announced, are still unclear.
2 min read
Police raided the New Jersey residence of Hadi Matar on Friday, after his violent attack on Rushdie [Getty]

Salman Rushdie’s attacker was "sympathetic to Shia extremism" as well as Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to a preliminary social media review by New York State Police. 

Rushdie was on a ventilator after he was stabbed during a literary event in New York state on Friday, more than 30 years after he went into hiding following former supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's fatwa.

The suspect arrested at the scene was named as 24-year-old Hadi Matar by law enforcement on Friday night, while the world-renowned writer fought for his life. 

Matar was born in California but recently moved to New Jersey, according to police. 

"We are working with the FBI and the sheriff’s office to determine what the exact motive of this attack was," Major Eugene Staniszewski told reporters in a statement after the stabbing. 

Pictures of a fake driving licence carried by the assailant have been circulating on social media, which he reportedly used to gain entry to the event. 

And police found images of dead IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a US airstrike in January 2020, on Matar’s phone, according to NBC News.  

Hardline media in Iran celebrates

Iranian ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan on Saturday hailed the assailant who attacked British author Salman Rushdie -- the target of a 1989 Iranian fatwa calling for his death.

"Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and depraved Salman Rushdie in New York," wrote the paper, whose chief is appointed by current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Let us kiss the hands of the one who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife," the daily added.

With the exception of reformist publications including Etemad, the majority of Iranian media followed a similar line, describing Rushdie as an "apostate".

Iranian authorities have yet to make any official comment on the stabbing attack against Rushdie.

Rushdie, 75, was propelled into the spotlight with his second novel 'Midnight's Children' in 1981, which won international praise and Britain's prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India.

But his 1988 book 'The Satanic Verses' transformed his life when Khomeini issued a religious decree the following year ordering his killing.

In 1998, the government of Iran's reformist president Mohammad Khatami assured Britain that Iran would not implement the fatwa.

But Khamenei said in 2005 he still believed Rushdie was an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam.