CHAUTAUQUA, NY — Salman Rushdie, the USA TODAY bestselling author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked on Friday as he prepared to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.
New York police say a state trooper assigned to the event took the suspect into custody after the attack. An Associated Press reporter saw a man storm the stage and begin punching or stabbing the author as he was introduced.
Rushdie’s condition was not immediately known.
A New York State Police news release said Friday that “at approximately 11 a.m. a suspect ran onto the scene and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer.”
“Rushdie was apparently stabbed in the neck and was airlifted to an area hospital,” the police statement said, while “the interviewer sustained a minor head injury.”
The Chautauqua institution is “currently coordinating with law enforcement and emergency officials in a public response,” according to a statement shared with USA TODAY.
USA TODAY has contacted police and Rushdie’s rep for comment.
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, a nonprofit that works to defend freedom of expression through the advancement of literature and human rights, said Rushdie had been “targeted for his remarks in a statement emailed to USA TODAY on Friday in response to the attack.
“PEN America is shocked and horrified at news of a brutal and premeditated attack on our former president and staunch ally, Salman Rushdie,” Nossel said in the statement by Rushdie, former president of PEN America. “We cannot think of any comparable incident of a violent public attack on a literary writer on American soil. … We fervently hope and believe that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.
Rushdie is the author of 12 novels, six of which are USA TODAY bestsellers, including “The Satanic Verses,” banned in Iran since 1988 because many Muslims consider it blasphemous. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.
Iran has also offered more than $3 million in rewards to anyone who kills Rushdie.
The Iranian government long distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment persisted. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation increased the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” people were interested in the award.
That year Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton”, on the fatwa.
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