The man accused of carrying out the attack has pleaded not guilty in a New York court to attempted murder and assault. A lawyer for Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, argued on his behalf during an arraignment hearing on Saturday.
Matar was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun, a border village in southern Lebanon, Mayor Ali Tehfe told The Associated Press. His birth came a decade after Indian-born Rushdie received death threats over the publication of ‘The Satanic Verses’, with many Muslims considering a dream sequence based on the prophet’s life to be blasphemy. Muhammad, among other objections.
The book was banned in Iran, where the late Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death.
“Salman Rushdie — with his insight into humanity, with his unparalleled sense of history, with his refusal to be bullied or silenced — represents essential and universal ideals,” Biden said in the statement. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society. And today, we reaffirm our commitment to these deeply American values in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who defend freedom of expression.
The incident came as the United States is believed to be set to relaunch the Iran nuclear deal and amid news this week that the Justice Department has indicted an Iranian agent in an alleged scheme to kill former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.