Salman Rushdie’s attack looked unreal, host says

Rushdie, who was stabbed multiple times, remained in critical condition Sunday morning, CNN reported. His condition was said to be improving. “We are extremely relieved that yesterday he was taken off the ventilator and supplemental oxygen, and was able to say a few words,” Zafar Rushdie, his son, tweeted on Sunday.

Reese was also injured and appeared on television with a bandage over his eye.

A 24-year-old New Jersey man has been charged in the attack. It is unclear whether the stabbing was related to the edict, known as a fatwa, issued in 1989 by Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini calling for Rushdie’s death. Khomeini decreed that Rushdie had committed blasphemy against the Muslim faith in his novel “The Satanic Verses”.

Reese told Stelter he initially thought the attack was some kind of twisted fatwa-related joke.

“I immediately thought it was someone making some sort of bad reference to it, not that it was actually an actual attack,” Reese said.

Rushdie went into hiding for years after the fatwa, but continued to write and then returned to the public eye as an activist supporting freedom of expression for persecuted artists, who, as Reese noted, had to do the subject of their discussion on Friday.

“It’s kind of a sinister irony, or maybe intent — not just to assault his body, but to assault everything he stood for,” Reese said.

The Chautauqua institution, which was established in 1874, is known for hosting speakers of various ideologies and faiths.

“Chautauqua is a community of people of all faiths and none,” the institution’s president, Michael E. Hill, said Friday in response to the attack. “Our collective family holds Mr. Rushdie and Mr. Reese, and their families, close in prayer.”

He added: “What we experienced at Chautauqua today is unlike anything in our 150 year history. It was an act of violence, an act of hate and a violation of one of the things we have always cherished most: the safety and tranquility of our lands and our ability to convene the most important conversations, even if these conversations are difficult.

For his part, Reese urged everyone to support free speech wholeheartedly.

“As readers, we should all go out and buy a Salman Rushdie book this week and read it,” he said.


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