By Salman Rushdie on ventilator after violent attack on lecture stage |  CBC News

By Salman Rushdie on ventilator after violent attack on lecture stage | CBC News

Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses drew death threats from Iran’s leader in the 1980s, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen on Friday by a man who rushed the stage as the author prepared to speak in western New York.

A bloodied Rushdie, 75, was airlifted to hospital and underwent surgery, police said. His agent Andrew Wylie said the writer was on a ventilator on Friday night with a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm and an eye he is likely to lose.

Police identified the attacker as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, NJ. He was arrested at the scene and was awaiting arraignment. State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said the motive for the stabbing is unclear.

An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man confront Rushdie as he was being introduced to the podium at the Chautauqua Institute and punch or stab him 10 to 15 times. The author was pushed or fell to the floor and the man was arrested.

Bloodstains mark the screen author Salman Rushdie tends to behind the screen after he was attacked during a lecture Friday at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y. (Joshua Goodman/The Associated Press)

Dr. Martin Haskell, a doctor who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s injuries as “serious but treatable”.

FOLLOW | Witnesses describe Salman Rushdie’s attack:

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Witnesses to the attack on Salman Rushdie in western New York on Friday say a man walked up to the stage at the Chautauqua Institution where the author was about to speak, attacked him and later pinned him down in the audience.

Event moderator Henry Reese (73), co-founder of an organization that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, was also attacked. Reese suffered facial injuries and was treated and released from the hospital, police said. He and Rushdie were to discuss the United States as a haven for writers and other artists in exile.

Lack of security questioned

A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Rushdie’s lecture, and state police said the trooper made the arrest.

But after the attack, some longtime visitors to the center questioned why the crackdown was not stricter, given decades of threats against Rushdie and a bounty of more than US$3 million for anyone who kills him.

A policeman, centre, carries a bag out of the amphitheater after author Rushdie was attacked. (Joshua Goodman/The Associated Press)

Spectators were ushered out of the outdoor amphitheater after the attack. Rabbi Charles Savenor was among the roughly 2,500 people in the audience.

“This guy ran onto the platform and started punching Mr Rushdie. The first thing you think is ‘What’s going on?’ And then within seconds it was very clear that he was beaten.”

Savenor said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.

Another onlooker, Kathleen James, said the attacker was dressed in black and wearing a black mask.

“We thought maybe it was part of a ploy to show that there’s still a lot of controversy surrounding this author,” she said, adding that it soon became clear it was no ploy.

FOLLOW | New York Governor Kathy Hochul provides an update on Salman Rushdie’s condition:

New York governor addresses Rushdie attack

New York Governor Kathy Hochul provides a brief on Salman Rushdie’s condition after the writer was attacked on stage before a speech.

Matar, like other visitors, was granted permission to enter the institution’s 303-hectare property, organization president Michael Hill said.

The suspect’s attorney, Public Defender Nathaniel Barone, said he was still gathering information and declined to comment. Matar’s house was blocked by the authorities.

Local police and the FBI block off the area around suspect Hadi Matar’s home on Morningside Avenue in Fairview, NJ on Friday. (Ted Shaffrey/The Associated Press)

Rushdie was a prominent spokesman for free speech and liberal causes, and the literary world recoiled from what writer and friend of Rushdie Ian McEwan described as “an attack on freedom of thought and speech”.

“Salman was an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists around the world,” McEwan said in a statement. “He is a fiery and generous spirit, a man of immense talent and courage and will not be deterred.”

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said the organization is not aware of any comparable act of violence against a literary writer in the US. Rushdie was once president of a group that advocates for writers and free speech.

Death threats followed the novel

Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, first published in 1988, was considered blasphemous by many Muslims. Often violent protests against Rushdie erupted around the world, including riots that killed 12 people in Mumbai.

The novel was banned in Iran, where the late leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989. Khomeini died that year.

A wave of violence soon followed. Also in 1989, four bombs were placed outside Penguin bookshops, one of which exploded in northern England – Penguin is a British book publisher. The Satanic Verses.

in 1991 The Satanic VersesItalian translator Ettore Capriolo was beaten and stabbed by a man claiming to be Iranian. Less than two weeks later, Hitoshi Igarashi, who translated the book into Japanese, was stabbed to death by an assailant in Tokyo.

Iran’s current leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has never withdrawn the fatwa, although Iran has not targeted writers in recent years.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday’s attack, which led the nightly news on Iranian state television.

Rushdie is seen posing with a copy of his book Joseph Anton in this photo taken in Berlin in October 2012. The name comes from the pseudonym Rushdie used while in hiding. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

Rushdie was committed to freedom of expression

Death threats and bounties led Rushdie to go into hiding under the British government’s protection program, including a round-the-clock armed guard.

Reemerging after nine years in seclusion, Rushdie cautiously resumed making more public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism in general.

Novelist and University of Toronto English professor Randy Boyagoda — who says he has interviewed Rushdie many times — said Rushdie’s commitment to free speech is what drives his career.

He said that while the public will focus on The Satanic Verses and the violence and controversy surrounding it, likely a “source of frustration” for Rushdie, he continues to speak publicly about the book and the dangers artists may face when they speak out to assert the power of the written word.

“Here’s someone who wasn’t romantic about it — like, frankly, many of us are — but actually put his own life on the line to continue his work,” Boyagoda said.

Rushdie himself said he was proud of his fight for freedom of expression when he told a conference in New York in 2012 that terrorism was indeed the art of fear.

“The only way you can beat it is to choose not to be afraid,” he said.

The fatwa still stands

The Iranian government has long since distanced itself from the Khomeini decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment persists.

Index on Censorship, a free speech advocacy group, said money was raised to increase the reward for his killing as early as 2016, underscoring the fact that the fatwa over his death still stands.

An Associated Press reporter who went to the Tehran office of the 15 Khordad Foundation, which has put up millions for Rushdie’s bounty, found it closed on Friday night during the Iranian weekend. No one answered the phone number.

In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir about life under the fatwa titled Joseph Antonwhich was the pseudonym he used when he was in hiding.

FOLLOW | In 2012, Rushdie spoke to the CBC about his life in hiding:

Acclaimed author Joseph Anton revisits his decade in hiding under threat of death from religious extremists in his new memoir.

Although the author made his mark with his 1981 Booker Prize-winning novel Midnight’s Childrenhis name became known all over the world after that The Satanic Verses.

Widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest living writers, Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2008 and earlier this year was made a Companion of the Honorable, a royal honor for people who have made a significant contribution to the arts. , science or public life.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter that he was “horrified” that Rushdie had been stabbed “while exercising a right we should never stop defending.”

Chautauqua Institution, about 90 kilometers southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, has served for more than a century as a place of reflection and spiritual guidance. Visitors do not go through metal detectors or go through bag checks.

The Chautauqua Center is known for its summer lecture series, where Rushdie has previously spoken.

At the evening vigil, several hundred residents and visitors gathered for prayer, music and a long moment of silence.

“Hate can’t win,” shouted one man.

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