NEW YORK, Aug. 12 (Reuters) – Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born novelist who went into hiding for years after Iran urged Muslims to kill him for his writing, was stabbed in the neck and torso onstage during a lecture in New York state York was taken to a hospital on Friday and by plane, police said.
After hours of surgery, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak Friday night after an attack that was denounced by writers and politicians around the world as an attack on free speech.
“The news is not good,” Andrew Wylie, his book agent, wrote in an email. “Salman will probably lose one eye; the nerves in his arm have been severed and his liver has been stabbed and damaged.”
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Rushdie, 75, was being proposed to give a talk to an audience of hundreds on artistic freedom at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York when a man stormed onto the stage and lunged at the novelist, who has been dating since late last year. lives a bounty on his head. the 80’s.
Stunned attendees helped the man wrestle from Rushdie, who had fallen to the ground. A New York State Police trooper who provided security during the event arrested the attacker. Police identified the suspect as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from Fairview, New Jersey, who purchased a ticket to the event.
“A man jumped on stage from I don’t know where from and started hitting what looked like him in the chest, repeated punches to his chest and neck,” said Bradley Fisher, who was in the audience. “People were screaming and screaming and gasping for breath.”
A doctor in the audience helped nurse Rushdie while emergency services arrived, police said. Henry Reese, the event moderator, suffered a minor head injury. Police said they were working with federal investigators to determine a motive. They did not describe the weapon used.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan described the incident as “terrible”. “We are grateful to good citizens and aid workers for helping him so quickly,” he wrote on Twitter.
Rushdie, who was born to a Muslim Kashmiri family in Bombay, now Mumbai, before moving to the UK, has long been facing death threats for his fourth novel, ‘The Satanic Verses’.
Some Muslims said the book contained blasphemous passages. It was banned in 1988 in many countries with large Muslim populations.
A few months later, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme leader, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling on Muslims to kill the novelist and anyone involved in the book’s publication for blasphemy.
Rushdie, who called his novel “pretty mild,” went into hiding for nearly a decade. Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the novel, was murdered in 1991. The Iranian government said in 1998 it would no longer support the fatwa, and Rushdie has lived relatively openly in recent years.
Iranian organizations, some of which are affiliated with the government, have raised a multimillion-dollar bounty for Rushdie’s murder. And Khomeini’s successor as supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in 2019 that the fatwa was “irrevocable”.
Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency and other news outlets donated money in 2016 to increase the bounty by $600,000. Fars called Rushdie an apostate who “insulted the prophet” in his report on Friday’s attack.
‘NO USUAL WRITER’
Rushdie published a memoir in 2012 about his secluded, secretive life under the fatwa called “Joseph Anton”, the pseudonym he used while under British police protection. His second novel, Midnight’s Children, won the Booker Prize. His new novel ‘Victory City’ will be published in February.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was shocked that Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right we should never stop defending.
Rushdie was with the institution in western New York for a discussion about the United States granting asylum to artists in exile and “as a home for freedom of creative expression,” according to the institution’s website.
There were no obvious security checkpoints at the Chautauqua Institute, a monument founded in the 19th century in the lakeside town of the same name; staff simply checked people’s passes for admission, those in attendance said.
“I felt we needed more protection there because Salman Rushdie is not an ordinary writer,” said Anour Rahmani, an Algerian writer and human rights activist sitting in the audience. “He’s a writer with a fatwa against him.”
Michael Hill, the institution’s president, said at a news conference that they have a habit of partnering with state and local law enforcement to provide event security. He promised that the summer program would be continued soon.
“Our whole purpose is to help people bridge what has divided a world too much,” Hill said. “The worst Chautauqua can do is withdraw from his mission in the face of this tragedy, and I don’t think Mr. Rushdie would want that.”
Rushdie became a US citizen in 2016 and lives in New York City.
Calling himself a lapsed Muslim and ‘hard-line atheist’, he is a fierce critic of religion across the spectrum and outspoken about oppression in his native India, including under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.
PEN America, a free speech advocacy group of which Rushdie is a former president, said it was “tumbling with shock and horror” over what it called an unprecedented attack on a writer in the United States. read more
“Salman Rushdie has been the target of his words for decades but has never been shocked or wavered,” Suzanne Nossel, PEN’s CEO, said in the statement. Earlier in the morning, Rushdie had emailed her to help relocate Ukrainian writers seeking refuge, she said.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington, Jonathan Allen, Randi Love and Tyler Clifford in New York and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols, Andrew Hay and Costas Pitas; Editing by Alistair Bell, Daniel Wallis and Michael Perry
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.