Salman Rushdie, the author whose writing drew death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked and apparently stabbed in the neck on Friday by a man who rushed the stage as he was about to to give a lecture in Western New York.
— Charles Savenor (@CharlieSavenor) August 12, 2022
An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man confront Rushdie on stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin punching or stabbing him 10 to 15 times as he was being introduced. The perpetrator, 75 years old, was pushed or fell to the ground, and the man was arrested.
Rushdie was airlifted to a hospital, state police said. His condition was not immediately known. Rabbi Charles Savenor was among the hundreds of people in the audience. Amid gasps, the spectators left the outdoor amphitheater.
“This guy ran up to the platform and started hitting Mr Rushdie. At first you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it became very clear within seconds that he was being hit,” Savenor said. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds. A bloodied Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who lifted his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest. Rushdie has been a prominent spokesman for free speech and liberal causes.
He is a past president of PEN America, who said he was “reeling from shock and horror” at the attack. “We cannot think of any comparable incident of a public violent attack against a literary writer on American soil,” CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement. “Salman Rushdie has been the target of his words for decades, but he has never wavered or wavered,” he added. His 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” was seen as blasphemous by many Muslims.
Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed at an event in New York, is being taken to hospital. No word on his condition pic.twitter.com/zQmOZH1jvG
— BNO News (@BNONews) August 12, 2022
Often violent protests against Rushdie erupted around the world, including a riot that killed 12 people in Mumbai. The novel was banned in Iran, where the late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.
A reward of more than $3 million has also been offered for anyone who kills Rushdie. Death threats and a reward led Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government protection program, including a 24-hour armed guard. Rushdie emerged from nine years in seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances, keeping his criticism open to religious extremism in general.
Iran’s government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has endured.
The Censorship Index, an organization that promotes free expression, said money was raised to increase the reward for his murder as recently as 2016, stressing that the fatwa on his death still stands. In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton,” about the fatwa. The title comes from the pseudonym Rushdie had used while in hiding.
Rushdie rose to prominence with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel Midnight’s Children, but his name became known around the world after The Satanic Verses. The Chautauqua Institution, about 35 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, is known for its summer lecture series. Rushdie has spoken before.