Salman Rushdie seriously stabbed during lecture in New York; Suspect in custody
Salman Rushdiethe author, whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was stabbed to death on Friday while preparing to give a lecture in western New York, authorities said. The 75-year-old author was stabbed at least once in the neck and once in the abdomen, officials said during a news conference Friday night. His agent later said he was put on a ventilator and was likely to lose an eye.
Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, has been identified as a suspect in the stabbing, Major Eugene J. Staniszewski of the New York State Police told reporters. He had a pass to enter the compound, as did the others who were in the audience, officials said.
Matar was arrested by a state police officer assigned to the event, he added.
Authorities believe he acted alone and are working to determine a motive for the attack.
Rushdie’s agent said Friday night that the author is currently on a ventilator and is unable to speak. He said Rushdie is likely to lose an eye, adding that nerves in his arm were “severed” and his liver was “stabbed and damaged”.
An Associated Press reporter saw a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and attack Rushdie as he was being introduced. Rushdie was pushed or fell to the ground and the man was pinned down.
Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people holding his legs up, presumably to send more blood to his chest. Officials said a doctor who was in the audience helped tend Rushdie while they waited for paramedics to arrive.
Rushdie’s agent confirmed Friday afternoon that he had surgery.
Staniszewski said the suspect also assaulted another speaker, who suffered a minor facial injury. He was taken to a hospital and released, Staniszewski said.
A video was posted on social media claiming to be of the aftermath of the attack.
Hundreds of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were then evacuated.
“Our thoughts are with Salman and his loved ones following this horrific event,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said tweeted after the attack.
Rushdie was at the event to discuss “the United States as a haven for exiled writers and other artists and as a home for freedom of creative expression,” according to the Chautauqua Institution.
“We are dealing with an emergency situation. I am unable to provide any further details at this time,” a spokesman for the Chautauqua Institution told Reuters.
Video posted to Twitter appeared to show Rushdie being taken to a medical helicopter.
Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988 because many Muslims consider it blasphemous. A year later, the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.
The Iranian government has long distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingered. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation increased Rushdie’s bounty from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
Rushdie denied that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” people were interested in the reward. That year, Rushdie published his memoir, Joseph Anton, about his experiences of life under the fatwa.
In 2015Rushdie spoke in the Paris satirical magazine about the murder of 12 people Charlie Hebdoand says the right to free speech is absolute or not free.
“Both John F Kennedy and Nelson Mandela Use the same three-word phrase that I think says it all, which is ‘freedom is indivisible,'” he said. “You can’t slice it, otherwise it ceases to be freedom. You can’t like Charlie Hebdo. … But the fact that you don’t like her has nothing to do with her right to speak.”