In the 1980s, Salman Rushdie received death threats from Iran because of his writing. On Friday, as the author was set to deliver a lecture in western New York, a guy rushed the stage and attacked him, reportedly stabbing him in the neck.
Rushdie, 75, was transported to a hospital covered in blood. There was no immediate word on his health. His agent, Andrew Wylie, only provided the information that the writer was undergoing surgery.
As Rushdie was being welcomed on stage at the Chautauqua Institution, an Associated Press reporter saw a man approach him and strike or stab him 10 to 15 times. When the author was pushed or knocked to the ground, the man was taken into custody.
Authorities did not immediately name or disclose the attacker’s motivation.
Rushdie was allegedly stabbed in the neck, according to state police. He was alive and “receiving the care he needs,” according to later comments from Governor Kathy Hochul.
Rushdie’s injuries were “severe but treatable,” according to Dr. Martin Haskell, a doctor who jumped in to help.
A co-founder of a group that grants residencies to authors facing repression, event moderator Henry Reese, was also assaulted and received a slight head injury, according to the police.
According to the police, the arrest was conducted by a state trooper who was assigned to Rushdie’s presentation. However, in light of the decades-long threats against Rushdie and the more than $3 million bounty on his head in the Muslim world, several longtime visitors to the center questioned why there wasn’t additional security for the event following the attack.
There were approximately 2,500 persons in the audience, including Rabbi Charles Savenor. The audience was escorted from the outdoor amphitheater amid gasps.
The attacker jumped onto the platform and began beating Mr. Rushdie. You initially wonder, “What’s going on?” In a matter of seconds, it became immediately evident that he was being beat,” stated Savenor. His estimate of the attack’s duration was 20 seconds.
Kathleen Jones, a different observer, reported that the assailant was wearing all-black clothing and a black mask.
“We speculated that it might have been a publicity trick to highlight the ongoing issue around this author. But in a matter of seconds, it was clear that it wasn’t, she claimed.
Rushdie has long served as a major advocate for liberal and free speech concerns. He was previously the president of PEN America, which described the incident as leaving it “reeling in shock and anguish.”
In a statement, CEO Suzanne Nossel remarked, “We can think of no comparable occurrence of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American territory.”
She went on to say that Rushdie “has been attacked for his words for decades but has never flinched or failed.”
Many Muslims considered his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” to be blasphemous because, among other things, one of the characters was considered to be an insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family, was the target of violent riots that broke out all across the world. 12 people were slain in one riot in Mumbai, the man’s homeland.
Iran, whose late supreme leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s execution, outlawed the book. The same year Khomeini passed away.
Although Iran hasn’t paid much attention to the author in recent years, the country’s current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has never issued a fatwa of his own removing the directive.
An inquiry for comment regarding the incident on Friday, which was the main topic of a nightly newscast on Iranian state television, was not immediately answered by Iran’s mission to the UN.
Rushdie fled the country under a British government security scheme that includes a 24-hour armed escort in response to the death threats and bounty. After nine years in hiding, Rushdie reemerged and carefully started making more public appearances while continuing to openly criticize Islamic fundamentalism in general.
He claimed that terrorism is essentially the art of fear during a 2012 speech in New York.
The only way to overcome it, he added, is to choose not to be afraid.
Long after Khomeini’s proclamation, anti-Rushdie animosity persisted. A group that supports free speech, Index on Censorship, reported that money was solicited as late as 2016 to increase the reward for his assassination.
When an Associated Press reporter visited the 15 Khordad Foundation’s headquarters in Tehran, which put up the millions for the Rushdie bounty, he discovered that it was closed on Friday night during the Iranian weekend. Calls to the provided phone number went unanswered.
Rushdie released a memoir titled “Joseph Anton” in 2012 that discussed the fatwa. Rushdie’s hiding-place moniker served as the inspiration for the title.
Rushdie first gained notoriety with the 1981 Booker Prize-winning novel “Midnight’s Children,” but “The Satanic Verses” made him a household figure.
Rushdie, widely regarded as one of Britain’s best living authors, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008 and was given membership in the Order of the Companions of Honor earlier this year, a royal honor reserved for individuals who have significantly contributed to the arts, sciences, or public life.
Rushdie was attacked “while exercising a privilege we should never cease to defend,” the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted.
The Chautauqua Institution has been a place for contemplation and spiritual direction for more than a century. It is located about 55 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural area of New York. There are no metal detectors or luggage checks for visitors. The majority of homeowners leave their century-old cottages’ doors unsecured at night.
Rushdie has previously presented on the summer lecture series at the Chautauqua Center. Each week, a different subject is covered by speakers. Rushdie and Reese were scheduled to speak about “the United States as a haven for creative expression and as a haven for writers and other artists in exile.”
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