Salman Rushdie seriously injured after being stabbed at a conference in New York; suspect in custody

Salman Rushdiethe author whose writings led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was stabbed on Friday as he prepared to give a talk in western New York, reports said authorities. The 75-year-old author was stabbed at least once in the neck and once in the abdomen, officials said at a news conference Friday evening. His agent later said he was put on a ventilator and would likely lose an eye.

Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, has been identified as the suspect in the stabbing, New York State Police Maj. Eugene J. Staniszewski told reporters. He had a pass to access the pitch, as did others in the audience, officials said.

Matar was taken into custody by a state trooper assigned to the event, he added.

Authorities believe he acted alone and are working to determine the motive for the attack.

Rushdie’s agent said Friday night that the author is currently on a ventilator and unable to speak. He said Rushdie would likely lose an eye, adding that the nerves in his arm had been “cut” and his liver had been “stabbed and damaged”.

Assault by Salman Rushdie
Author Salman Rushdie receives treatment after being attacked during a lecture Friday, August 12, 2022 at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY

Joshua Goodman/AP

An Associated Press reporter saw a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua facility and begin attacking Rushdie as he was introduced. Rushdie was pushed or fell to the ground, and the man was restrained.

Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who lifted his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest. Officials said a doctor who was in the audience helped treat Rushdie while they waited for paramedics to arrive.

Rushdie’s agent confirmed Friday afternoon that he was in surgery.

Staniszewski said the suspect also attacked another speaker, who suffered a minor facial injury. He was taken to hospital and released, Staniszewski said.

A video purporting to show the aftermath of the attack was posted on social media.

Hundreds of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were later evacuated.

“Our hearts go out to Salman and his loved ones following this horrific event,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul. tweeted after the attack.

Rushdie was present at the event to discuss “the United States as a haven for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression,” according to the Chautauqua Institution.

Video posted to Twitter appears to show Rushdie being taken away in a medical helicopter.

Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned in Iran since 1988, as 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.

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”, about his experience living under the fatwa.

Officials provide update after Salman Rushdie stabbed at New York event


In 2015Rushdie spoke about the murder of 12 people to the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdosaying that the right to freedom of expression is absolute or that it is not free.

“Both John F Kennedy and Nelson Mandela use the same three-word phrase that in my mind says it all, namely, “Freedom is indivisible,” he said. “You can’t cut it out, otherwise it ceases to be freedom. You may not like Charlie Hebdo. … But the fact that you don’t like them has nothing to do with their right to speak.”

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan released a statement condemning Friday night’s attack, writing that “this act of violence is appalling.”

“All of us in the Biden-Harris administration are praying for his speedy recovery,” Sullivan said. “We are grateful to the good citizens and first responders for helping Mr. Rushdie so quickly after the attack and to law enforcement for their prompt and efficient work, which continues.”

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