Jews fear copycat attacks in wake of Salman Rushdie's stabbing

Community security groups have called for constant vigilance to guard against further ‘lone wolf’ terror


The attack on Salman Rushdie in New York may inspire copycat “lone wolf” attacks on Jews, a security expert has warned the JC.

David Patrikarakos, analyst and author of Nuclear Iran, said: “The Iranian regime has now inspired a lone wolf attack for the first time. It wasn’t directed by Tehran, it was carried out by an individual with a knife, inspired by its rhetoric.

“This development is extremely worrying. While this was not an attack against a Jew, the inevitable result will be copycat lone wolf attacks against Jews and Jewish targets.”

Mark Gardner, Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust (CST), said: “Any terror atrocity that attracts global attention carries a risk of copycat attacks. And we can take it for granted that any jihadi terrorist is going to be motivated by antisemitism.

“That is exactly why the CST always insists that community security must not be turned on and off like a tap. It has to be constantly in place because these threats are real and constant.”

It comes as a leaked social media exchange suggests that Hadi Matar, 24, may have been inspired by a massacre of Jews when he stabbed the author last Friday. In a screengrab of an apparent WhatsApp chat, a user identified as Matar, 24, talks to a friend about how to get past Rushdie’s bodyguards.

“It’s not easy. But I mean I was thinking to have faith in Allah,” he appears to write. “Allah helped Imam Ali lift Khaybar. Maybe he can help a momin [believer] get through bodyguards. Bodyguards are not impossible.”

The Battle of Khaybar was a conflict between Muslims and Jews in 628CE, which ended in a Jewish defeat. In Islamic legend, this was due to the courage of Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali, who tore the iron gate off the Jewish fort, leading his troops to victory.

During the skirmish, Jews living near Medina were killed, with survivors forced to surrender much of their wealth to their Muslim conquerors.
The episode has become “integral” to the “Islamist conspiratorial antisemitic worldview”, Mr Patrikarakos told the JC.

References to the slaughter are frequently chanted at anti-Israel rallies, and have been encouraged by Al-Qaeda.

The provenance of the chilling screengrab could not be verified, but it was sourced by Iran analyst Holly Dagres, non-resident fellow at the respected Washington-based think tank, the Atlantic Council.

Ms Dagres first encountered the screengrab on a Telegram channel affiliated to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). She traced it to a Twitter account claiming to belong to a friend of Matar, which later deleted it.

The screengrab highlights the antisemitic nature of the hardline theocracy’s ideology, underlining Mr Patrikarakos’s fears that Jews may be next in the cross-hairs. “Iran has a complex relationship with Jews, as there are Jewish communities living in the country,” he said.

“But the regime has a pathological hatred of Israel and indulges in naked Holocaust denial and antisemitism. This fans the flames of hatred in its sympathisers all over the world.”

Posting the WhatsApp screengrab to Twitter, the individual claiming to be Matar’s friend wrote: “Several months ago, when he told me that he had the intention of bringing that cursed man to his death by his work, I told him the case is not that easy.”

The Iranian regime supporter added: “I have known the dear and brave Hadi Matar for several years, and he is a committed believer, and I think that God’s hand was with him in implementing the cursed rule of Salman Rushdie.”

Social media accounts sympathetic to the Islamic Republic celebrated the attack, with one tweeting a grotesque picture of Mr Rushdie with devil’s horns and a blinded eye, an apparent reference to fears that the author may lose an eye as a result of the stabbing.

The attack, which sent shockwaves around the world, also left the author with damage to his liver and the nerves in his arm. His agent, Andrew Wylie, said: “The road to recovery has begun.

It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.”

Speaking to the JC, a New York rabbi described how he witnessed Matar stabbing Mr Rushdie more than 10 times before fleeing the scene for his own safety.

Rabbi Charles Savenor, executive director of the education charity Civic Spirit, said: “Someone jumped onto the stage and made a beeline for Mr Rushdie and began to pound him.

“I was sitting 75 feet away. All I saw was an arm going up and down, up and down, and it just looked like he was beating him.

“Mr Rushdie had begun sitting on a chair and what I did notice as this whole thing unfolded was it looked like the assailant then had him on the floor.

“There was silence for at least five seconds or so. Nobody knew what was transpiring. When it became clear that what was unfolding before our very eyes was an assault, an attack, people began to shout. People began to move, people began to act.

“What I saw was some security and other bystanders leap onto the stage and pull the assailant off and help Mr Rushdie.”

Rabbi Savenor and his companions fled the theatre, fearing that Matar had an accomplice or had planted a bomb.

“I’ve been in Israel when there’s been terror attacks, and I was in New York City when 9/11 took place,” he said.

“So there was a part of me that thought, ‘not again’. The calendar tells us we’re moving forward but these intentional acts of violence drag us back.”

While returning to a friend’s house, Rabbi Savenor said, he could hear police sirens and see officers running to the site of the attack.

The previously “idyllic setting” of Chautauqua, New York, entered a full lockdown and there was “police everywhere”, he added.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani denied that Matar had any links to Iran.

He said: “Regarding the attack against Salman Rushdie in America, we don’t consider anyone deserving reproach, blame or even condemnation, except for (Rushdie) himself and his supporters.”

Matar’s mother told the Daily Mail that her son had become much more religious since a 2018 trip to Lebanon, where he visited her hometown, Yaroun.

Silvana Fardos said: “I was expecting him to come back motivated, to complete school, to get his degree and a job. But instead he locked himself in the basement.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive