British author and philanthropist J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter series, received a death threat allegedly from an Iran-backing extremist after she expressed support for author Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed in New York Friday before giving a lecture.
“Don’t worry you are next,” a Twitter user named Meer Asif Aziz wrote as a comment on Rowling’s tweet following the knife attack on Rushdie, which read, “Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok.”
Asif Aziz’s Twitter bio says that he's a “student, social activist, political activist and research activist” based in Karachi, Pakistan. He has previously made “jokes” about destroying Israel and called India a “terrorist state,” The Daily Mail said.
“Aziz also appears to support the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who frequently rants about Israel in deranged, genocidal tweets,” the Mail added. “In one of Khamenei’s posts about the ‘oppressive Yazidis,’ for instance, Aziz responded with a heart emoji.”
Rowling, a free speech campaigner who has also been targeted by some trans activists, reported the threat to Twitter, which responded by saying Aziz did not violate its rules.
“After reviewing the available information, we determined that there were no violations of the Twitter rules in the content you reported,” Twitter said in an email to Rowling. “We appreciate your help and encourage you to reach out again in the future if you see any potential violations.”
In 2020, Rowling was targeted over a separate tweet, which said: “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”
Warner Bros. Discovery issued a statement Saturday supporting Rowling.
“Warner Bros. Discovery strongly condemns the threats made against JK Rowling. We stand with her and all the authors, storytellers and creators who bravely express their creativity and opinions. WBD believes in freedom of expression, peaceful discourse and supporting those who offer their views in the public arena. Our thoughts are with Sir Salman Rushdie and his family following the senseless act of violence in New York. The company strongly condemns any form of threat, violence or intimidation when opinions, beliefs and thoughts might differ.”
Friday morning, Rushdie was airlifted to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, after he was stabbed in the abdomen and the neck while he was on the stage of Chautauqua Institution for a discussion.
The 75-year-old author's agent, Andrew Wylie, said he was put on a ventilator and wasn’t able to talk. He added that Rushdie is expected to "lose one eye" and also suffered injuries to his arm, where nerves were severed, and his liver where he was also stabbed.
On Saturday, Rushdie was taken off the ventilator and was talking, his agent said.
The suspect rushed the stage and attacked Rushdie after he had just sat down onstage with the discussion’s moderator, Ralph Henry Reese from the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, City of Asylum, for exiled writers, The New York Times reported at the time. The India-born British author was scheduled to give a talk before 2,500 people about the United States being a safe haven for exiled writers.
The New York State Police identified the suspect as Hadi Matar from New Jersey and said at the time his motive was unknown.
“It took like five men to pull him away and he was still stabbing,” Linda Abrams, an onlooker, was quoted as saying. “He was just furious, furious. Like intensely strong and just fast.”
On Saturday, Matar pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault.
The suspect appeared in a court in New York wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him. A judge ordered him to be held without bail.
Matar, who was arrested at the scene by a state trooper who was assigned to the lecture, was sympathetic to the Iranian government, The New York Post said, quoting anonymous law enforcement sources.
Based on his social media posts, Matar is a supporter of Iran, its Revolutionary Guard and Shia extremism, the NY Post reported.
Rushdie, who was born in Mumbai, India, promotes freedom of speech and speaks out against religious extremism. He has faced Islamist death threats since 1989 when Iran’s then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious edict, or fatwa, ordering Muslims to kill him over his novel The Satanic Verses, which was deemed as “blasphemous.”
Rushdie, on whose head a $3 million bounty was placed for anyone who kills him, lived under the protection of the British police for nearly 10 years.