Author Salman Rushdie on fan, likely to lose eye after stabbing in New York

Acclaimed author Salman Rushdie has been taken off the ventilator but remains in hospital, his agent confirmed to the press, after being stabbed multiple times during a public appearance in New York state.
The update comes as police continue to determine the motive for an attack that has drawn international condemnation.

The accused assailant, Hari Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty during a court appearance on Saturday, his public defender, Nathaniel Barone, told Reuters.

Mr Rushdie, 75, was due to give a talk on artistic freedom at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York when police said Matar rushed onto the stage and stabbed the original writer Indian, who had been living with a bounty on his head since his 1988 novel Satanic Verses” prompted Iran to urge Muslims to kill him.
After hours of surgery, Mr Wylie said in an email that the novelist was at risk of losing an eye and had nerve damage to his arm and liver damage.
“Salman is likely to lose an eye, the nerves in his arm have been severed and his liver has been stabbed and damaged,” Mr Wylie added.

Asked to comment on the case, Mr Matar’s lawyer Barone said: ‘We are in the early stages and quite frankly in cases like this I think the important thing to remember is that people need to keep an open mind.

Assault by Salman Rushdie

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for arraignment at the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York on Saturday, August 13, 2022. Source: AAP / PA

“They have to look at everything. They can’t just assume something happened because they think something happened.”

Mr. Matar was born in California and recently moved to New Jersey, the NBC New York report said, adding that he had a fake driver’s license on him. He was arrested at the scene by a state trooper after being tackled to the ground by members of the public.

Witnesses stated that he did not speak when he attacked the author. Mr. Rushdie was stabbed 10 times, prosecutors said during Mr. Matar’s arraignment, according to The New York Times.

Assault by Salman Rushdie

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

A doctor in the audience administered medical care until emergency first responders arrived. On-stage interviewer Ralph Henry Reese, 73, suffered a facial injury but was released from hospital, police said.

The attack happened at the Chautauqua facility, which hosts arts programs in a lakeside community 110 kilometers south of the city of Buffalo.
Carl LeVan, a professor of politics at American University who attended the event, said he saw Matar run onto the stage where Mr Rushdie was sitting and “stabbed him repeatedly and violently”.

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

“Horror and Panic”

“There were gasps of horror and panic in the crowd,” the professor said. Mr LeVan said witnessing the event had “shocked” him, adding that he saw Chautauqua as a safe place of creative freedom.
“Knowing that it happened here and seeing it was horrible,” he said. “What I saw today was the essence of intolerance.”

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

Assault by Salman Rushdie

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

Who is Salman Rushdie?

Mr. Rushdie is an internationally acclaimed author born in India to non-practicing Muslim parents.
He was thrust into the limelight 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 – at over 600 pages – has been adapted for stage and big screen, and its books have been translated into over 40 languages.

Why did he spend a decade in hiding?

His 1988 book The Satanic Verses attracted attention beyond his imagination when it was triggered by a fatwa, or religious edict, calling for his death by Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
A fatwa is a legal decision of Islamic law, imposed by a religious leader, who decrees disputed reminders of the rules in their respective country.
The book was condemned by some Muslims who found the plot around the protagonist – which had striking parallels with the Prophet Muhammad – highly offensive and blasphemous.

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

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 press conference in the United States. Source: PA / RON EDMONDS/AP

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

Iran’s conservative media hailed the attack on Rushdie in New York, with a state-owned newspaper claiming the “devil’s neck” had been “cut by a razor”.
The ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper, whose leader is appointed by the 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 obtained police protection from the British government, where he was at school and where he made his home, following the murder or attempted murder of his translators and editors.

He spent nearly a decade in hiding, moving repeatedly and not being able to tell his children where he lived.

Re-emergence and threats

Mr Rushdie only began to emerge from his life on the run in the late 1990s after Iran said in 1998 that it would not support his killing.
Now living in New York, he is a defender of free speech, notably launching a vigorous defense of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after its staff were gunned down by Islamists in Paris in 2015.
The magazine had published drawings of the Prophet Muhammad which drew furious reactions from Muslims around the world.
The publication, whose 12 staff members were shot in 2015, said there was no justification for Mr Rushdie’s stabbing.

“As of this writing, we don’t know the motivations” of the attacker, he says, ironically speculating whether he was spurred on by global warming, declining purchasing power or ban on watering potted plants during the current heat wave. “, reads the press release.

British writer Salman Rushdie at a press conference in Paris.

British writer Salman Rushdie at a press conference in Paris in 1995 shows a letter from Iran’s ambassador to Denmark saying that Iran would never send anyone to kill Rushdie, thus lifting the fatwa. Source: PA / JACQUES BRINON/AP

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

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

An essential voice

World leaders expressed their anger at the attack and their support for Rushdie, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying the perpetrator “embodied freedom” and that “his battle is ours, a universal battle”.
British leader Boris Johnson meanwhile said he was “appalled”, sending thoughts to those close to Mr Rushdie and praising the author for “exercising a right that we should never stop defending”.
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 the big screen, and his books have been translated into over 40 languages.
Suzanne Nossel, head of the organization PEN America, said the free speech group was “in shock and horror”.
“A few hours before the attack on Friday morning, Salman had emailed me to help place Ukrainian writers who needed safe haven from the grave dangers they face,” Ms Nossel said in a statement.

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