New York: Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses drew death threats from Iran’s leader in the 1980s, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen Friday by a man who rushed the stage as the author was about to give a lecture in western New York.
A bloodied Rushdie, 75, was flown to a hospital and underwent surgery. His agent, Andrew Wylie, said the writer was on a ventilator Friday evening, with a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm and an eye he was likely to lose.
Police identified the attacker as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey. He was arrested at the scene and was awaiting arraignment. Matar was born a decade after The Satanic Verses was published. The motive for the attack was unclear, State Police Major Eugene Staniszewski said.
An Associated Press reporter witnessed the attacker confront Rushdie on stage at the Chautauqua Institution and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as he was being introduced. The author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was arrested.
Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”
Rushdie was about to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution when the assailant rushed to the stage. Rabbi Charles Savenor was among the hundreds of people in the audience.
“This guy ran onto the platform and started pounding on Mr Rushdie. At first you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it became abundantly clear in a few seconds that he was being beaten,” Savenor said.
The Mumbai-born novelist gained prominence with his 1981 novel Midnight’s Children, which was awarded the Booker Prize. It was also awarded Best of the Bookers twice.
His 1988 book The Satanic Verses was viewed as blasphemous by many Muslims. 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 bounty of over $3 million has also been offered for anyone who kills Rushdie. The death threats and bounty led Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government protection programme, including a round-the-clock armed guard.
Rushdie emerged after nine years of seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances, after the Iranian government in 1998 said it won't enforce that 'fatwa.'
(with inputs from agencies)