Salman Rushdie, who received death threats from Iranian leaders in the 1980s for his novel The Satanic Verses, was stabbed in the neck and stomach by a man who rushed to the stage Friday while he was about to give a talk in western New York. .
A bloody 75-year-old Rushdie was taken to hospital. His condition was not immediately clear. His agent, Andrew Wiley, said the writer was undergoing surgery, but didn’t know any other details.
Police identified the attacker as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey. He was arrested on the spot, awaiting his arraignment. State Police Major Eugene J. Staniszewski said the motive for the stabbing was unknown.
An Associated Press reporter witnessed the attacker confront Rushdie on stage at the Chautauqua Institute and beat or stab him 10 to 15 times as he was being introduced. I was pushed to the floor and fell, and the man was arrested.
Dr. Martin Haskell, one of the doctors who rushed for help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but reversible.”
Henry Reese, 73, co-founder of an organization that provides residencies for writers facing persecution and the event’s host, was also attacked. Police said Reese suffered facial injuries and was discharged after receiving treatment. He and Rushdie planned to discuss the United States as a haven for writers and other artists in exile.
A state trooper and county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to lecture on Rushdie, and state police said officers had made the arrest. Given decades of intimidation and a bounty of more than $3 million on the person who killed him, it made me wonder why security wasn’t increased at the event.
Rabbi Charles Savener was among the audience of about 2,500. In gasps, the audience was ushered out of the outdoor amphitheater.
The assailant ran to the platform and “started pounding at Ms. Rushdie. At first she was like, ‘What’s going on?'” Savenoll said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.
Another spectator, Kathleen Jones, said the attacker was dressed in black and had a black mask.
“I figured it was probably part of a stunt to show that there was still a lot of controversy surrounding this authorship. But it became clear within seconds that wasn’t the case,” she said.
Nathaniel Barone, the suspect’s attorney and public defender, declined to comment, saying he was still gathering information.
Rushdie was a prominent spokesperson for freedom of expression and liberal causes. He, the former president of his PEN America, said he was “shocked and horrified” by the attack.
In a statement, CEO Suzanne Nossel said: “I cannot think of an incident comparable to the violent public attack on a literary writer in America.
Rushdie’s 1988 novel was viewed by many Muslims as blasphemous and met with various objections, including seeing the characters as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Across the Muslim world, often violent protests erupted against Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family.
At least 45 people died in riots over the book, including 12 in Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai. In 1991, the Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death, and the Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the Norwegian publisher of this book said that he was shot three times, but survived.
The book was banned in Iran, and the late leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989. Khomeini died that same year.
Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has never issued its own fatwa revoking the edict, but Iran has not focused on writers in recent years.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday’s attacks.
Death threats and bounties have led Rushdie into hiding under a British government protection program that includes 24-hour armed guards. Emerging after his nine-year quarantine, Rushdie has made a discreet public appearance and maintained an outspoken critique of religious extremism as a whole.
In a 2012 lecture in New York, he said that terrorism is truly the art of terror.
“The only way to beat it is to decide not to be afraid,” he said.
Anti-Rushdie sentiment persisted long after Khomeini’s decree. The Index on Censorship, an organization that promotes freedom of expression, said as recently as 2016 that funds were raised to increase the reward for his murder.
An Associated Press journalist who went to the Tehran office of the 15 Khordad Foundation, which paid millions for Rushdie’s bounty, found it closed on Friday night during the Iranian weekend. No one answered the call to the phone number listed.
In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir on fatwas, Joseph Anton. The title comes from the pseudonym Rushdie used while in hiding.
Rushdie rose to fame with the Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel Midnight’s Children, but his name became known around the world after The Devil’s Verse.
Widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest living writers, Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008. , science or public life.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “appalled” that Rushdie was stabbed “while exercising a right we must not stop defending”.
About 55 miles southwest of Buffalo, in the New York countryside, the Chautauqua Institution has served as a place of reflection and spiritual guidance for more than a century. Visitors do not go through metal detectors or undergo security checks. Most people leave their 100-year-old cottage doors unlocked at night.
The Chautauqua Center is known for Rushdie’s previous summer lecture series.