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Hadi Matar, the attacker accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie last week, said he was surprised the writer survived the attack.
“When I heard he survived, I was surprised, I guess,” he told the New York Post from prison.
Matar went on to admit that he hadn’t actually read Rushdie’s controversial book, “The Satanic Verses.”
“I read a few pages. I didn’t read everything cover to cover,” he said.
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Matar, 24, is charged with attacking Rushdie last Friday but pleaded not guilty on Saturday to attempted second-degree murder and assault. His next court appearance is Friday.
Matar’s attorney argued on his behalf at an arraignment in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and white face mask with his hands cuffed in front of him.
Rushdie remains hospitalized with serious injuries. Fellow author Aatish Taseer tweeted that Rushdie was “off the fan and talking (and joking).” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed this information without giving further details.
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“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims considering a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad to be blasphemy, among other objections. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iranian Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious edict, or fatwa, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.
Khomeini died the same year, but the fatwa remains in effect. Iran’s current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has never issued his own fatwa to revoke the edict, although Iran in recent years has not focused on the writer.
In Iran’s first public comments on the assault, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, told reporters in a briefing that Iran should not be accused of any involvement .
“We in the Salman Rushdie attack incident in the United States do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusation other than him and his supporters,” Kanaani said. “No one has the right to accuse Iran in this regard.”
Fox News’ Sarah Rumpf and Landon Mion contributed to this report.