Author Salman Rushdie on a ventilator, likely to lose an eye after New York stabbing


Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie whose writings have made him the target of Iranian death threats is on a ventilator and could lose an eye after he was repeatedly stabbed at a literary event in New York state.
Following the attack Mr Rushdie was airlifted to the hospital where he needed emergency surgery, and his agent said in a statement obtained by The New York Times that “the news is not good.”
“Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” said agent Andrew Wylie, who added that Mr Rushdie can’t speak.

New York state police identified the suspect involved in the attack as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old from Fairfield, New Jersey. A probable motive remained unclear.

This still image from a video shows a man, at left, being escorted from the stage as people tend to author Salman Rushdie, centre right, at the Chautauqua Institution, in Chautauqua, New York, on Friday, 12 August 2022. Source: AAP / AP

Police said Mr Rushdie was stabbed in the neck as well as the abdomen. A number of people rushed to the stage and forced the suspect to the ground, before a trooper present at the event arrested him.

A doctor in the audience administered medical care until emergency first responders arrived. An interviewer onstage, 73-year-old Ralph Henry Reese, suffered a facial injury but has been released from the hospital, police said.
The attack occurred at the Chautauqua Institution, which hosts arts programs in a lakeside community 110 kilometres south of Buffalo city.
Carl LeVan, an American University politics professor attending the event, told AFP he saw the suspect run onto the stage where Rushdie was seated and “stabbed him repeatedly and viciously.”

Professor LeVan, a Chautauqua regular, said the suspect “was trying to stab him as many times as possible before he was subdued,” adding that he believed the man “was trying to kill” Rushdie.

‘Horror and panic’

“There were gasps of horror and panic from the crowd,” the professor said.
LeVan said witnessing the event had left him “shaken,” adding he considered Chautauqua a safe place of creative freedom.
“To know that this happened here, and to see it — it was horrific,” he said. “What I saw today was the essence of intolerance.”

Another witness, John Stein, told ABC that the assailant “started stabbing on the right side of the head, of the neck. And there was blood… erupting.”

Salman Rushdie Assault

In this still image from a video, author Salman Rushdie is taken on a stretcher to a helicopter for transport to a hospital on Friday, 12 August 2022. Source: AAP / AP

Who is Salman Rushdie?

Mr Rushdie is an internationally acclaimed author who was born in India to non-practising Muslim parents.
He was propelled into the spotlight with his second novel Midnight’s Children in 1981, which won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India.

Midnight’s Children – which runs to more than 600 pages – has been adapted for the stage and silver screen, and his books have been translated into more than 40 languages.

Why did he spend a decade in hiding?

His 1988 book The Satanic Verses brought attention beyond his imagination when it sparked a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for his death by Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
A fatwa is a legal ruling in Islamic law, imposed by a religious leader, who decrees contentious points of order in their respective country.
The book was condemned by some Muslims who found the plot around the protagonist – who had striking parallels with the Prophet Muhammad – to be highly offensive and blasphemous.

In the fatwa, Mr Khomeini urged “Muslims of the world rapidly to execute the author and the publishers of the book” so that “no one will any longer dare to offend the sacred values of Islam”.

Salman Rushdie holds up a copy of his book.

Author Salman Rushdie holds up a copy of his book The Satanic Verses during a 1992 news conference in the US. Source: AP / RON EDMONDS/AP

Mr Khomeini, who was 89 and had just four months to live, added that anyone who was killed trying to carry out the death sentence should be considered a “martyr” who would go to paradise.

Conservative media in Iran hailed the attack on Rushdie in New York, with one state-owned paper saying the “neck of the devil” had been “cut by a razor”.
Ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan, whose chief is appointed by current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote: “Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and depraved Salman Rushdie in New York.”
He was granted police protection by the government in Britain, where he was at school and where he made his home, following the murder or attempted murder of his translators and publishers.

He spent nearly a decade in hiding, moving houses repeatedly and being unable to tell his children where he lived.

Reemergence and threats

Mr Rushdie only began to emerge from his life on the run in the late 1990s after Iran in 1998 said it would not support his assassination.
Now living in New York, he is an advocate of freedom of speech, notably launching a strong defence of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after its staff were gunned down by Islamists in Paris in 2015.
The magazine had published drawings of Prophet Muhammad that drew furious reactions from Muslims worldwide.
The publication whose 12 staff members were gunned down in 2015, said that nothing justified the stabbing of Salman Rushdie.

“At the time we are writing these lines we do not know the motives” of the attacker, it said, speculating ironically whether it was spurred by global warming, the decline in purchasing power, or a ban on watering potted plants during the current heatwave,” the statement said.

British writer Salman Rushdie at a news conference in Paris.

British writer Salman Rushdie at a news conference in Paris in 1995 shows a letter from the Iranian ambassador to Denmark saying Iran would never send anyone to kill Rushdie, effectively lifting the fatwa. Source: AP / JACQUES BRINON/AP

Threats and boycotts continue against literary events that Mr Rushdie attends, and his knighthood in 2007 sparked protests in Iran and Pakistan, where a government minister said the honour justified suicide bombings.

The fatwa failed to stifle Mr Rushdie’s writing and inspired his memoir “Joseph Anton,” named after his alias while in hiding and written in the third person.

An essential voice

Global leaders voiced anger over the attack and support for Rushdie, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying the author “embodied freedom” and that “his battle is ours, a universal one.”
British leader Boris Johnson meanwhile said he was “appalled,” sending thoughts to Mr Rushdie’s loved ones and praising the author for “exercising a right we should never cease to defend.”
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called it a “reprehensible attack,” adding that “all of us in the Biden-Harris Administration are praying for his speedy recovery.”
Midnight’s Children has been adapted for the stage and silver screen, and his books have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Suzanne Nossel, head of the PEN America organisation, said the free speech advocacy group was “reeling from shock and horror.”
“Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning, Salman had emailed me to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge from the grave perils they face,” Nossel said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and passions now lie with our dauntless Salman, wishing him a full and speedy recovery. We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.”



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