Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born British author has been stabbed as he was about to give a lecture in southwestern New York state. Rushdie was on a ventilator, will likely lose one eye, and his liver was “stabbed and damaged” following the attack, his agent said, noting that the “news is not good”.
Police confirmed Rushdie was stabbed “at least once in the neck, and at least once in the abdomen” on Friday after an assailant rushed to the stage and lunged at the 75-year-old writer whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, just as he was being introduced to the audience.
After being airlifted to hospital where he spent hours in surgery, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak on Friday evening.
“The news is not good,” Andrew Wylie, his book agent, wrote in an email to the Reuters news agency. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey.
New York State Police Major Eugene Staniszewski told reporters on Friday afternoon that officials do not have “any indication of a motive” at this “very early” stage of the investigation. They said they believed that Matar was acting alone.
Stacey Schlosser, who witnessed the attack, told the Associated Press news agency that Rushdie was stabbed six to eight times before the attacker was restrained.
“Nobody knew what to do. Nobody knew how to react. I mean, there were tons of people that rushed the stage,” Schlosser said.
Rushdie rose to prominence with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children”, but his name became known around the world after “The Satanic Verses”.
Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued an edict calling for Rushdie’s death. Iran’s government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree.
The British-Indian author, who currently lives in the United States, had been previously put under police protection because of threats to his life.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “appalled” to learn about the attack on author Salman Rushdie, saying that in no case is violence response to words spoken or written by others in their exercise of the freedoms of opinion and expression.
“The Secretary-General was appalled to learn of the attack on renowned novelist Salman Rushdie,” a statement issued on Friday by his spokesperson said. “In no case is violence a response to words spoken or written by others in their exercise of the freedoms of opinion and expression,” Guterres said, conveying his wishes for Rushdie’s early recovery.