Author Salman Rushdie on ventilator, may lose eye after stabbing on lecture stage

Author Salman Rushdie, who for years was the goal of demise threats from Iran, was stabbed within the neck and physique Friday at a convention in New York state.

Rushdie, whose ebook “The Satanic Verses” despatched him undercover out of worry for his life, was making ready to talk on the Chautauqua Establishment in western New York when Hadi Matar, 24, rushed the stage round 10:45 a.m., attacked him and an interviewer after which began to stab the 75-year-old writer, police mentioned.

Rushdie was taken by helicopter to a hospital, the place he underwent surgical procedure, the state police mentioned.

Andrew Wylie, Rushdie’s agent, instructed the New York Occasions on Friday evening that “the news is not good,” saying the writer was on a ventilator and couldn’t communicate.

“Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” Wylie mentioned within the assertion.

One witness described the assault.

“He crept up real fast behind him with a short-bladed black knife that he immediately then — the first attack was to his throat on the right side,” Carter Byham, 52, instructed the Los Angeles Occasions.

Byham was sitting within the third row and seen a crouching man in black come from an alleyway to the correct of the stage. The person got here round behind Rushdie to assault, Byham mentioned.

“Rushdie knocked him off with his arm, stood up, then [the man] went to [Rushdie’s] chest,” Byham mentioned. “Then the moderator tackled the guy.”

Byham mentioned the entire assault lasted about 10 seconds and that individuals rushed the stage to come back to Rushdie’s assist. A health care provider within the viewers gave Rushdie medical therapy till EMS arrived and had the author airlifted to a hospital, a state police spokesman mentioned.

“I saw Rushdie sitting up holding his neck, pool of blood around him,” Byham mentioned, close to tears.

Matar was taken into custody by a state police officer. He’s from Fairview, N.J., state police mentioned.

Maj. Eugene Staniszewski, a state police commander, mentioned at a Friday information briefing that troopers had been engaged on the investigation with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Workplace, district legal professional’s workplace and the FBI.

Requested whether or not he anticipated federal fees to be filed alongside state fees, Staniszewski mentioned it was “a possibility.”

“We are in the process of obtaining search warrants for various items,” he mentioned. “There was a backpack located at the scene. There was also electronic devices.”

As of Friday, authorities consider Matar acted alone, however investigators are working to substantiate whether or not that’s true.

There have been no indications of a menace main as much as the occasion, Staniszewski mentioned.

Salman Rushdie speaks on the Mississippi E-book Pageant in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 18, 2018.

(Rogelio V. Solis / Related Press)

Rushdie was on the Chautauqua Establishment on Friday to speak with Ralph Henry Reese about “the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression,” in response to the establishment’s web site.

Reese, 73, who was additionally attacked and suffered minor head accidents, based Metropolis of Asylum, a company that gives sanctuary in Pittsburgh to writers going through persecution.

The Chautauqua Establishment, a group that gives lectures and humanities programming all through the summer time, mentioned it canceled the remainder of its Friday occasions.

“We ask for your prayers for Salman Rushdie and Henry Reese, and patience as we fully focus on coordinating with police officials following a tragic incident at the Amphitheater today,” it mentioned in an announcement.

In an announcement Friday evening, the Authors Guild mentioned it was “deeply troubled and outraged by the attack.”

“I was horrified and shocked to learn that our valued member and longtime friend, the novelist Salman Rushdie, was violently stabbed,” mentioned Doug Preston, the guild’s president. “The assault on Rushdie was an attack on all writers and on free speech itself. We are all Salman Rushdie.”

The suspect within the assault was instantly arrested by a state trooper who was on scene, in response to the police.

“He is alive. He has been transported, airlifted to safety,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul mentioned of Rushdie at a information convention, including that Chautauqua is a “tranquil, rural” group.

She recommended a state police officer for saving Rushdie’s life.

Witness Kathleen Jones mentioned the attacker wore black and a black masks.

“We thought perhaps it was part of a stunt to show that there’s still a lot of controversy around this author. But it became evident in a few seconds” that it wasn’t, she mentioned.

PEN America Chief Government Suzanne Nossel mentioned the literary free speech group was “reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal, premeditated attack” in opposition to Rushdie, its former president.

Rushdie was born in India and raised in Mumbai earlier than shifting to England to attend highschool and the College of Cambridge, the Authors Guild mentioned. He’s the writer of 14 novels, together with “Midnight’s Children,” for which he gained the 1981 Booker Prize.

Rushdie’s life first got here below menace in 1989, when Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini positioned a fatwa on him over “The Satanic Verses,” a ebook impressed by the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad.

The ebook brought on an uproar in lots of Muslim communities. Khomeini referred to as it blasphemy, saying it was “against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran” when he ordered Rushdie’s demise. He supplied a $1-million reward for Rushdie’s killer. Khomeini died in 1989.

After the fatwa was ordered, the author went into hiding, shifting consistently and at all times remaining protected by a bodyguard.

The 1989 fatwa was no idle menace. In 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi, 44, a Japanese professor who translated “The Satanic Verses” into Japanese, was discovered stabbed to demise. Nobody was arrested for the killing.

An Italian translator of the ebook was additionally attacked in 1991 by an Iranian man who stabbed him repeatedly.

The Iranian authorities in 1998 mentioned it not backed the fatwa, and Rushdie moved out of hiding to New York Metropolis.

“The battle chose me, I didn’t choose it,” Rushdie instructed The Occasions in 2012 concerning the fatwa.

“On the one side there’s almost everything I value most: liberty, art, imaginative freedom, tolerance. And on the other side there’s bigotry, intolerance, violence, a kind of religious fascism,” he mentioned.

The Authors Guild mentioned it supported Rushdie after the fatwa was ordered and nonetheless stands by him now.

“We do not tolerate attacks on free speech of any kind, much less assault and murder,” in response to the Guild’s assertion. “We are following the developments with extreme concern and Mr. Rushdie is in our hearts. We wish him a safe recovery.”

Occasions employees author Dorany Pineda and the Related Press contributed to this report.