British novelist and author Mr. Salman Rushdie, widely known for his controversial book “The Satanic Verses,” has been attacked by a man as he was introduced on stage to speak at an event at the Chautauqua Institution in New York.
According to an eyewitness, the man stormed the stage and began attacking Salman along with an interviewer. The 75-year-old author fell to the floor during the attack, but the suspect was restrained thereafter.
Salman was scheduled to speak to Henry Reese of the City of Asylum organization, which runs a residence program for writers who are living in exile and face persecution.
They were supposed to talk about how the United States serves as a haven for emigrant writers and other artists as well as a place where artistic freedom is valued.
Linda Abrams, a woman who also witnessed the incident, told The New York Times that the assailant kept trying to attack Mr. Rushdie after he was restrained.
“It took like five men to pull him away, and he was still stabbing,” Ms. Abrams said. “He was just furious, furious. Like intensely strong and just fast.”
Authorities confirm that he was stabbed in the neck by the suspect and currently receiving medical attention at an area hospital.
“Rushdie suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck, and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital… The interviewer suffered a minor head injury,” according to a statement by state police.
The Booker-prize-winning author rose to fame in 1981 after releasing his book “Midnight’s Children” which sold over a million copies in the UK alone.
But Salman’s fourth novel, published in 1988, the “Satanic Verses,” sparked outrage among Muslims who considered its contents to be blasphemous, resulting in the banning of the book in some countries.
Lingering Death Threats
The Indian-born author Rushdie was forced to go into hiding for over nine years as he and those associated with the translation of his book received critical death threats from the Islamic community.
In 1989, Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini demanded Mr. Rushdie’s execution. In a fatwa – an order issued by an Islamic religious leader – he promised a $3 million prize.
The fatwa further demanded that anybody connected to the book’s release be killed, and it offered incentives to those who participated in the killings. Several people were killed in anti-Rushdie riots in India and in Iran.
A Japanese translator of the book was fatally stabbed in 1991. A few months later, an Italian translator of the book was also stabbed, and the Norwegian publisher of the book, William Nygaard, was shot but both survived.
In 1998, the Iranian government did claim to distance itself from Khomeini’s decree by pledging not to seek to carry it out.
However, in February 2017, when Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was asked if the “fatwa against Rushdie was still in effect,” Khamenei confirmed it was, saying, “The decree is as Imam Khomeini (Ayatollah) issued.”
Salman Rushdie has faced death threats for more than 30 years since the publication of The Satanic Verses.