The author Salman Rushdie, whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen on Friday, August 12, by a man who rushed the stage as the author was about to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.
Rushdie, 75-year-old, suffered significant injuries. He was rushed to the hospital by helicopter and taken into surgery.
He is currently on a ventilator and, according to Author Agent Wylie in an email update on Friday evening, “The news is not good.”
Adding, “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
Bradley Fisher, who was in the audience, said, “A man jumped up on the stage from I don’t know where and started doing what looked like beating him on the chest, repeating fist strokes into his chest and neck.” He added that “people were screaming and crying out and gasping.”
A New York state police trooper providing security at the event arrested the attacker. Authorities later identified the man suspected of stabbing Rushdie as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, who had bought a ticket to the event.
Hadi Matar was born in California but recently moved to New Jersey, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation.
Sources suggest that he is of Lebanese origin. The mayor of Yaroun village in south Lebanon said that the father of the assailant lives in the village, while his mother lives in the United States.
NBC New York reported that a preliminary law enforcement review of Matar’s social media accounts showed he was sympathetic to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Hadi is now facing charges of attempted murder and assault, authorities said on Saturday, August 13.
Investigators booked Hadi Matar with one count of attempted second-degree murder in Rushdie’s stabbing and one count of second-degree assault on Rushdie, according to a statement from authorities.
Attempted murder is the more serious of the two counts. The crime, under New York law, can carry up to 25 years in prison upon conviction.
Many have noted that Salman Rushdie spent decades in hiding after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran after the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, issued a religious edict known as a fatwa on Feb. 14, 1989, ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie following the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses.”
The Satanic Verses is the fourth novel by the British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie. First published in September 1988, the book was inspired by the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It garnered critical acclaim in the UK and won the Whitbread award for a novel of the year in 1988.
However, it also caused major controversy as some Muslims accused the text of blasphemy and of mocking Islam.
Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Iranian-backed Lebanese party, had previously called in a speech for the implementation of the Khomeini fatwa.
Nonetheless, a Hezbollah official said on Saturday that the group had no additional information on the stabbing attack on novelist Salman Rushdie.
The attack was denounced by literary figures and public officials. Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive officer of PEN America, which promotes free expression, said in a statement that “we can think of no comparable incident of a public attack on a literary writer on American soil.”