Blasphemy: Biden, Charlie Hebdo condemn Rushdie attack

Blasphemy: Biden, Charlie Hebdo condemn Rushdie attack
Salman Rushdie

US President Joe Biden condemned the “vicious attack” on Salman Rushdie, as the author remained hospitalized Saturday after being stabbed in New York.

In a statement praising Rushdie for his “refusal to be intimidated or silenced,” Biden said that he and his wife, Jill, “together with all Americans and people around the world, are praying for his health and recovery.”

Also, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, targeted in a devastating 2015 attack over cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed considered blasphemous by many Muslims, has denounced the stabbing of Salman Rushdie.

“Nothing justifies a fatwa, a death sentence,” wrote the magazine’s managing editor Laurent Sourisseau, known as Riss, himself a survivor of the 2015 shootings, which claimed 12 lives.

Riss, who still lives under police protection, later told the French weekly Journal du dimanche that no one living under the threat of such an attack can ever drop their guard.

British author Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after an Iranian fatwa ordered his killing, is on a ventilator following a stabbing attack at a literary event in New York state Friday.

“At the time we are writing these lines we do not know the motives” of the attacker, wrote Riss, in an editorial posted on the magazine’s website on Friday.

“So let’s take the risk of saying that it’s probably a believer, that he is just as probably a Muslim and that he committed his act even more probably in the name of the fatwa launched in 1989 by the Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, which condemned him to death.”

Rushdie’s 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” transformed his life when Iran’s first supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious decree, ordering his killing.

The novel was considered by some Muslims as disrespectful of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.

“The freedom to think, to reflect and to express oneself has no value for God and his servants,” wrote Riss, accusing Islam of rejecting such values because of the threat they pose to their hold on believers.


– Attack ‘always possible’ –


He rejected an argument he said some commentators had advanced that the fatwa on Rushdie was all the more revolting because “The Satanic Verses” was in no way disrespectful towards Islam.

By that “perverse” reasoning, he argued, “disrespectful remarks towards Islam would justify a fatwa and a punishment, even if it is fatal”.

“We are going to have to repeat again and again that nothing, absolutely nothing justifies a fatwa, a death sentence, of anyone for anything.”

In January 2015, the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked by two Islamist gunmen who killed 12 people there, including several of the magazine’s leading cartoonist. Riss himself was badly wounded in the attack.

Charlie Hebdo, whose no-taboo style included publishing cartoons of the prophet, had already drawn death threats.

The deadly 2015 attacks brought a wave of support for the magazine across the world, and Rushdie himself was one of those who expressed his solidarity.

In an interview appearing in Sunday’s Journal du dimanche newspaper, Riss added that he had hoped Rushdie would recover a normal life after he came out of hiding in 2002.

“Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to live like everyone else when you are under the influence of a fatwa,” he added.

Riss himself is still under threat from Islamists and like several of his colleagues at Charlie Hebdo, still lives under police protection.

“You always have to keep in mind that an attack or aggression is possible, and always reason by saying that it can start again.

“For these kinds of individuals, the years do not count.”