- Salman Rushdie was attacked on Friday as he was about to give a lecture in western New York
- The 75-year-old author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the attacker was arrested
- Rushdie is controversial author who faced Islamist death threats after writing 'The Satanic Verses'
Salman Rushdie, the author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked on Friday as he was about to give a lecture in western New York. Witnesses said that the author was stabbed 10 to 15 times on the stage. The 75-year-old author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was arrested.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said Rushdie, who has “spent decades speaking truth to power” is “alive” and has been airlifted to safety and authorities are monitoring the situation.
Rushdie, the 75-year-old Mumbai-born controversial author who faced Islamist death threats after writing 'The Satanic Verses', fell through a barrier to the stage and was seen with blood on his hands. The audience tackled the attacker and Rushdie was then treated onstage following the assault.
“It is heartbreaking to learn that within the last hour, a prominent individual, Salman Rushdie, was attacked on a stage in western New York just before he was about to give a speech. He is alive, he has been transported, airlifted to safety,” Hochul said in remarks at an event on ‘Preventing Gun Violence, Protecting New Yorkers’.
“The Satanic Verses” has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death. A bounty of over $3 million has also been offered for anyone who kills Rushdie.
Rushdie was at the Chautauqua Institution, a place that Hochul described as a “tranquil”, rural community “where the most preeminent speakers and thought leaders and politicians and justices and everyone come together” for “free expression of thought.”
The death threats and bounty led Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government protection program, which included a round-the-clock armed guard. Rushdie emerged after nine years of seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism overall.
In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton,” about the fatwa. The title came 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.”
Police said a state trooper was assigned to Rushdie's lecture.
The Chautauqua center is known for its summertime lecture series, where Rushdie has spoken before. Speakers address a different topic each week. Rushdie and moderator Henry Reese were set to discuss “the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression.”
(AP, PTI inputs)