Named suspect, author of ‘Satanic Verses’ stabbed
CHAUTAUQUA, NY – Salman Rushdiethe USA TODAY best-selling author whose writing has led to death threats, was attacked on Friday as he prepared to give a talk at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, suffering from stab wounds to the neck and abdomen.
Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie of The Wylie Agencysaid the writer was on a ventilator Friday night, with a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye he was in danger of losing.
New York police say a state trooper assigned to the event arrested a suspect after the attack. At a press conference Friday afternoon, the suspect was identified as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from Fairview, New Jersey, according to New York State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewsk. Officials “had no indication of motivation at this time,” Staniszewsk said, adding that charges against Matar have yet to be filed as officials are working with the district attorney’s office to review evidence and monitor the case. state of Rushdie.
Earlier Friday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement that Rushdie “is an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power. Someone who has been fearless despite the threats that followed him all his adult life, it seems.”
Travis Seward, CEO of 10Best in USA TODAY, was present at the event. He saw a man “linked” to the stage from the audience with his “arms up swinging”. Seward said he didn’t hear the man screaming anything and that Rushdie tried to get away from the assailant and fell.
“It’s really troubling for everyone here,” Seward said. “It’s a peaceful place and it was unexpected.”
Rushdie was airlifted to hospital by helicopter, police said, and “the interviewer sustained a minor head injury.” Staniszewsk said the interviewer was treated and released from hospital.
The Chautauqua institution is “currently coordinating with law enforcement and emergency officials in a public response,” according to a statement emailed to USA TODAY.
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, a nonprofit organization that champions freedom of expression through the advancement of literature and human rights, said in an emailed statement Friday that Rushdie had been “targeted for his lyrics”.
“PEN America is reeling in shock and horror at news of a brutal and premeditated attack on our former President and staunch ally, Salman Rushdie,” Nossel said. “We can think of no comparable incident of a violent public attack on a literary writer on American soil. … We fervently hope and believe that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.”
Rushdie is an Indian-born British-American novelist. He is the author of more than a dozen books and six of his novels are USA TODAY bestsellers. His book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned in Iran since the late 1980s, and many Muslims consider it blasphemous. History.com says, “The book mocked or at least contained mocking references to the Prophet Muhammad and other aspects of Islam, in addition to a character clearly based on Iran’s Supreme Leader.”
After the book’s publication, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.
The Iranian government long distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment persisted. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation increased the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
It is unclear whether Friday’s attack had any connection to the edict.
Rushdie dismissed this threat at the time. That year Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anthony” on the fatwa.
Colleen Lough, 65, of Grosse Ile, Michigan, visited Chautauqua for the first time this week and was seated about 20 rows from the scene where Rushdie was attacked. She said the attacker was dressed in black and had “a black stocking or something” covering his face.
“It was such a shock to have this happen in front of us and people just started shouting, ‘No! no!’ ” she says.
Lough is an Episcopal chaplain and has volunteered at nearby Hurlbut Church, caring for anyone who needs help coping with what they have witnessed.
“No one should ever have to fear danger or violence for speaking their minds,” she said. “Even in these political times, when many of us disagree, everyone should be able to speak their mind and have a discussion about it without fear of violence.
Dr. Michael E. Hill, president of the Chautauqua Institution, said at Friday’s press conference that the attack would not impact the institute’s choice of speakers.
“It’s been part of his whole life, to get ideas out there. He’s known as one of the most important defenders of free speech. And I think the worst thing Chautauqua can do is walk away from his mission in light of this tragedy, and I don’t think Mr. Rushdie would want that either,” Hill said.
Rushdie’s most recent novel, “Quixote“, was published in 2019. In it, Rushdie puts his spin on the Miguel de Cervantes classic with a modern-day Don Quixote satirizing former President Donald Trump’s America. The book was selected for the Booker Prize.
In 2023, the author is set to release “Victory City: A Novel,” following a woman who “breathes a fantasy empire into existence, only to be consumed by it over the centuries,” according to the description. of the book.
Contributor: Kristen Shamus, The Detroit Free Press, USA TODAY Network; Joshua Goodman, The Associated Press
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