Sturgeon sends 'message of solidarity' to Rushdie after 'horrific' attack

·3-min read
Louise Welsh and Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Monday 15 August 2022
Louise Welsh and Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Monday 15 August 2022

NICOLA Sturgeon has sent “a message of solidarity” to Sir Salman Rushdie after he was stabbed on stage at an event in New York state last week.

The First Minister said the author personified the fight for freedom of speech for 30 years.

Sir Salman, 75, was left severely injured after being knifed in the face, neck and abdomen.

His attacker, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, has plead not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault.

The writer was forced into hiding for almost a decade after his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses was condemned as blasphemous by some Muslims, and the then leader of Iran issued a fatwa calling for his assassination, adding a £2.5million bounty.

Appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival today, where she was interviewing the Glasgow-based crime writer Louise Welsh, Ms Sturgeon began the event by telling the audience: “We're just going to take a moment to send a message of solidarity.

“I know the thoughts of all of us right now are with a great writer of our  times, Salman Rushdie, who over the past three decades has in many ways come to personify the ongoing fight for values that we hold dear, of freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

“Salman of course was subjected to a horrific attack in the United States at the end of last week.

“And I know all of us will want to send our very best wishes to him.

“But in a gesture of solidarity, Louise is going to read some words from one of his best known and best loved novels, Midnight's Children.”

Ms Welsh then read one of the best known quotes from the book: “Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems - but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible.”

Earlier in the day, Iran “categorically” denied any connection with Sir Salman’s attacker, and blamed the author for the incident.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had accused Iran's state media of “despicable” gloating about the attack, including saying “an eye of the Satan has been blinded”.

Giving the country’s first official reaction, Iran's foreign ministry said Tehran denied any link, adding "no-one has the right to accuse the Islamic Republic of Iran".

A spokesman told a weekly press conference: "In this attack, we do not consider anyone other than Salman Rushdie and his supporters worthy of blame and even condemnation.

"By insulting the sacred matters of Islam and crossing the red lines of more than 1.5 billion Muslims and all followers of the divine religions, Salman Rushdie has exposed himself to the anger and rage of the people."

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

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 added: “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.”