Author Salman Rushdie Stabbed on Lecture Stage in New York!

In the 1980s, Iran’s leader sent death threats to Salman Rushdie because of his book “The Satanic Verses.” On Friday, a man rushed the stage as Rushdie was about to give a talk in western New York and stabbed him in the neck and abdomen.

A bloodied Rushdie, 75, was flown to a hospital and underwent surgery. His agent, Andrew Wylie, said the writer was on a ventilator Friday evening, with a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm and an eye he was likely to lose.

An Associated Press reporter saw the attacker meet Rushdie on stage at the Chautauqua Institution and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as he was being introduced. The man pushed or knocked the author down, and then he was taken into custody.

Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”

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Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, a co-founder of an organization that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, was also attacked. Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie were due to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile.

A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were sent to Rushdie’s talk, and the trooper, according to state police, made the arrest. But after the attack, some longtime visitors to the centre asked why there wasn’t tighter security for the event, since Rushdie has been threatened for decades and has a $3 million bounty on his head for anyone who kills him.

Rabbi Charles Savenor was among the roughly 2,500 people in the audience. Amid gasps, spectators were ushered out of the outdoor amphitheater.

 

Author Salman Rushdie

The attacker ran up to the platform and began beating Mr. Rushdie. At first, you wonder, “What is going on?” “Then, in just a few seconds, it was clear that he was being hit,” Savenor said. He said that the attack lasted about 20 seconds.

Kathleen James, who was also there, said that the attacker wore all black and a black mask.

“We thought perhaps it was part of a stunt to show that there’s still a lot of controversy around this author. But it became evident in a few seconds” that it wasn’t, she said.

Matar, like other visitors, had obtained a pass to enter the institution’s 750-acre grounds, President Michael Hill said.

Nathaniel Barone, the public defender representing the suspect, said he was still gathering information and would not say anything else. The way to Matar’s house was blocked by the police.

The stabbing was heard all the way from the quiet town of Chautauqua to the United Nations. In a statement, the U.N. said that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was horrified by the attack and that violence should not be used to stop people from speaking their minds.

Rushdie has been a well-known advocate for free speech and liberal causes, and the literary world was shocked by what Rushdie’s friend and fellow author Ian McEwan called “an attack on freedom of thought and speech.”

“Salman has been an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” McEwan said in a statement. “He is a fiery and generous spirit, a man of immense talent and courage and he will not be deterred.”

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said the organization didn’t know of any comparable act of violence against a literary writer in the U.S. Rushdie was once president of the group, which advocates for writers and free expression.

Many Muslims thought Rushdie’s 1988 book was blasphemous because, among other things, one of the characters was an insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family, faced protests that were often violent all over the Muslim world.

At least 45 people were killed in riots over the book, and 12 of them were killed in Mumbai, which is where Rushdie was born. In 1991, a knife was used to kill a Japanese translator of the book, and an Italian translator was attacked with a knife but survived. The Norwegian publisher of the book was shot three times in 1993, but he lived.

The late leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, called for Rushdie’s death in order, or fatwa, that he made in 1989. The book was banned in Iran. That same year, Khomeini died.

Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has never issued his own fatwa rescinding the edict, but Iran hasn’t paid much attention to the writer in recent years.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations didn’t respond right away to a request for comment on Friday’s attack, which was the lead story on Iranian state television’s evening news show.

Rushdie went into hiding because he was being threatened with death and had a price on his head. He was protected by the British government, which put an armed guard with him at all times. Rushdie came out of hiding after nine years and slowly started making more public appearances again, but he still spoke out against religious extremism in general.

He said in a 2012 talk in New York that terrorism is really the art of fear.

“The only way you can defeat it is by deciding not to be afraid,” he said.

Even after Khomeini’s order, people have still been against Rushdie. Index on Censorship, a group that supports free speech, said that money was raised in 2016 to make the reward for his death bigger.

When a reporter from the Associated Press went to the office of the 15 Khordad Foundation in Tehran, the group that put up the millions of dollars for the bounty on Rushdie, the office was closed on Friday night because it was the Iranian weekend. No one picked up the phone when people called the number listed.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “was appalled to learn of the attack” on Rushdie, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “In no case is violence a response to words spoken or written by others in their exercise of the freedoms of opinion and expression.”

In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton,” about the fatwa. The title came from the pseudonym Rushdie used while in hiding.

Rushdie became well-known after “Midnight’s Children,” which won the Booker Prize in 1981, but “The Satanic Verses” made his name known all over the world.

Rushdie is considered by many to be one of Britain’s best living writers. In 2008, Queen Elizabeth II knighted him, and earlier this year, he was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honor, which is a royal honor for people who have made important contributions to the arts, science, or public life.

In a tweet, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson deplored that Rushdie was attacked “while exercising a right we should never cease to defend.”

The Chautauqua Institution is in a rural part of New York, about 55 miles (89 km) southwest of Buffalo. For more than a century, it has been a place for people to think and get spiritual guidance. People don’t have to walk through metal detectors or have their bags checked. Most people don’t lock the doors to their cottages that are over 100 years old at night.

The center is known for its summer lecture series, where Rushdie has spoken before.

At an evening vigil, a few hundred residents and visitors gathered for prayer, music, and a long moment of silence.

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