Salman Rushdie Is Attacked Onstage in Western New York

Published Sat, Aug 13, 2022 · 01:19 PM

Salman Rushdie spent years in hiding after the leadership of Iran called for his death following the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses.” But in recent years, declaring, “Oh, I have to live my life,” he reentered society, regularly appearing in public around New York City without evident security.

On Friday (Aug 12) morning, any sense that threats to his life were a thing of the past was dispelled when an attacker rushed the stage of Chautauqua Institution in western New York, where Rushdie was scheduled to give a talk about the United States as a safe haven for exiled writers. The assailant stabbed Rushdie, 75, in the abdomen and the neck, police and witnesses said, straining to continue the attack even as several people held him back.

Rushdie was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Erie Pennsylvania, where he was in surgery for several hours Friday afternoon. Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, said Friday evening that Rushdie was on a ventilator and could not speak.

“The news is not good,” Wylie said in an email. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

Eugene Staniszewski of the New York State Police identified the suspect in the attack as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old New Jersey man who was arrested at the scene, but said at a news conference Friday afternoon that there was no indication yet of a motive.

He said that police were working with the FBI and the local sheriff’s office and that investigators were in the process of obtaining search warrants for a backpack and electronic devices that were found at the institution.

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Ralph Henry Reese, 73, who was onstage with Rushdie to moderate the discussion, suffered an injury to his face during the attack and was released from the hospital Friday afternoon, police said.

Rushdie had effectively been living under a death sentence since 1989, about 6 months after the publication of “The Satanic Verses,” which fictionalized parts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad with depictions that many Muslims found offensive and some considered blasphemous.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the supreme leader of Iran after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, issued a religious edict known as a fatwa on Feb 14, 1989, ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie. NYT

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