Pro-Iranian group leader ‘praised fatwa against Salman Rushdie’

The leader of a Britain-based pro-Iranian non-profit group has expressed support for the fatwa calling for the death of Sir Salman Rushdie, it has been claimed.

Massoud Shadjareh, founder and chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), reportedly backed the death sentence handed down by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s former supreme leader, in 1989.

The commission benefited from £1.4 million ($1.6 million) in charitable cash.

Rushdie fought for his life after being stabbed at an event in New York this month. The well-known author has since been taken off a ventilator and is on the road to recovery.

Mr Shadjareh, 70, has in the past backed Iran’s fatwa calling for the murder of the author for writing the controversial novel satanic versesaccording to a report by The Sunday Mail.

“I’m old enough to remember what was happening at the time of the Rushdie affair,” Mr Shadjareh reportedly told a conference on Islamophobia in December.

“We were not organized as a Muslim community. We didn’t even have huge national umbrella organizations.

“But ordinary Muslims from all walks of life, even those who were not fully practicing, came with the understanding that this was wrong and they supported the fatwa against it.”

Mr Shadjareh was quoted in the newspaper as saying his speech late last year “or more broadly the issues around the ‘fatwa’ and the Muslim community’s response to it” may have been misunderstood.

He said he would be willing to have a public discussion on the subject and explain “how Muslims in general and me in particular feel about it”.

The man accused of stabbing Rushdie last week has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault.

Hadi Matar, 24, appeared for a hearing in Chautauqua County Court in New York state on Thursday after being indicted by a grand jury.

Photos showed him handcuffed in a gray striped jumpsuit and white mask.

Mr Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested after he allegedly rushed to the scene at the Chautauqua facility on Friday August 12, stabbing Rushdie a dozen times, including in the neck and eyes, in front of a crowd.

He was charged with one count of attempted second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, and one count of second-degree assault.

Judge David Foley refused to grant bail to Mr Matar, according to court documents.

Defense lawyer Nathaniel Barone argued that Mr Matar had no criminal record and would not flee the country if released.

Mr Foley has ordered lawyers involved in the case not to give media interviews.

Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt told the court that Mr. Matar traveled to the area on Thursday, August 11 from his New Jersey home with “false identification, money, prepaid Visa cards and several knives”.

Updated: August 21, 2022, 1:02 p.m.

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