SAlman Rushdie, Booker Prize-winning author of world-renowned books, including midnight children and satanic verses, was attacked on Friday morning at an event in New York State. He was still operated late Friday afternoon. Although the motive of the assailant is not yet known, the incident marks the latest in a series of threats to Rushdie’s life and ideas, beginning with the controversy surrounding the publication of satanic verses in 1988.
What happened to Salman Rushdie?
Around 11 a.m. Friday morning, a male suspect attacked Rushdie, 75, and interviewer Henry Reese, according to New York State Police. Rushdie was speaking at a series of lectures in the 4,000-seat amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education center and resort in western New York, about 400 miles from New York City.
In a statement, New York State Police said Rushdie was apparently stabbed in the neck, while Reese suffered a minor injury. Late Friday afternoon, Major Eugene Staniszewski told a news conference that a doctor in the audience immediately began first aid for Rushdie. He was then airlifted to a nearby hospital.
Private James O’Callaghan told the press conference that there was no indication of cause yet. Also at the press conference, officials said they were still working to obtain search warrants, but identified the arrested man as Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey.
Retired copywriter Brad Fisher was present at the event. He had just sat down and Reese was making opening remarks when a man ran onto the stage and began punching Mr. Rushdie in the chest with quick punches, Fisher said.
“I didn’t understand what I was seeing when this man started attacking – it was one of those things you don’t deal with,” Fisher said. “And then when I realized what was happening, it was shock and disbelief and all those things that people go through when they see a tragedy live.”
From where Fisher was seated, about 20 rows from the stage, he could not tell if the assailant was holding a knife. When Rushdie fell on stage, Fisher said, people began to swarm around him and subdue the attacker. At least two uniformed security guards showed up “very quickly,” Fisher said.
Fisher has been attending events at the Chautauqua facility since 1984, he said. As the institution nears its 150th anniversary, Fisher stressed that “it has always been safe, always open and always welcoming.”
“So today we not only mourn Mr Rushdie’s tragic attack, we also mourn a sad change in this open and free-wheeling environment,” Fisher said. “I don’t think this place will be the same after this.”
Rushie’s condition is not yet known. His agent, Andrew Wylie, told the New York Time Friday afternoon he was undergoing surgery.
Rushdie’s Literary Legacy
Rushdie, an Indian-born writer, was speaking at the Chautauqua Institution as part of its summer programming. The theme of the week in which Rushdie was to speak revolved around redefining the concept of “home”.
Born in Mumbai to a Kashmiri Muslim Indian family, Rushdie moved to England for high school and later settled there permanently. He is known for his novels, especially those from 1988 satanic versesinspired by the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
In 1989, following the publication of satanic verses, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s Supreme Leader, issued a fatwa – a legal ruling on a point of Islamic law – calling for his assassination. The British government then placed Rushdie under police protection.
Rushie has long had an outsized footprint in the literary world. Her second novel, midnight children, won the Booker Prize in 1981, and in 2007 he was knighted for his contributions to literature. He was also president of the PEN America Center, which defends and celebrates freedom of expression, from 2004 to 2006 and founded the PEN World Voices Festival.
“We can think of no comparable incident of a violent public attack on a literary writer on American soil,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement. “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 perils they face.”
The controversy over satanic verses
The publication of satanic verses, his fourth novel, met with immediate protest from Muslims over its depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. In the book, Muhammad (called Mahound) adds three disputed verses to the Quran, which the narrator claims come from the archangel Gabriel. The book was banned in 13 predominantly Muslim countries and Iranian state media renewed the fatwa with a $600,000 bounty on the author’s head in 2016. It was also the subject of a massive protest and murderer in Pakistan. Rushdie survived a failed assassination attempt in 1989 and was blacklisted by al-Qaeda in 2010.
As the fatwa also called for the deaths of people involved in the publication of the book, and Rushdie himself had gone into hiding for many years, several people connected to the novel – including its Norwegian publisher, a Japanese translator, an Italian translator and a Turkish translator – were victims. alleged assassination attempts in the early 1990s. The Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, succumbed to his injuries and dozens of people were killed in a fire resulting from the attempt on the life of Aziz Nesin, the translator Turkish.
“Salman Rushdie was targeted for his lyrics for decades but never flinched or wavered,” Nossel said. “He devoted tireless energy to helping those who were vulnerable and at risk.”
“While we do not know the origins or motives of this attack,” she continued, “all those around the world who have encountered violent words or called for the same are guilty of legitimizing this assault on a writer while engaged in his essential work of connecting readers.
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