Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked on stage at an event in New York and suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck, according to New York State Police and an eyewitness.
A man rushed to the stage at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York state and attacked Rushdie as he was being introduced, an eye witness said. A State Trooper present at the event took the attacker into custody, police said.
Rushdie was taken by helicopter to a hospital but his condition was not yet known, police said “We are dealing with an emergency situation,” a Chautauqua Institution spokesperson said when contacted by Reuters.
Rushdie fell to the floor when the man attacked him, and was then surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, seemingly to send more blood to his upper body, as the attacker was restrained, according to a witness attending the lecture who asked not to be named. Rushdie, who was born into an Indian Muslim family, has faced death threats for his fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses,” which some Muslims said contained blasphemous passages. The novel was banned in many countries with large Muslim populations upon its 1988 publication.
A year later, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme leader, pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict, calling upon Muslims to kill the novelist for blasphemy. Rushdie went into hiding for many years. The Iranian government later backed away from the order and Rushdie has lived relatively openly in recent years. Iranian organizations, however, have raised a bounty worth millions of dollars for Rushdie’s murder.
Rushdie was at the Chautauqua Institution to take part in a discussion about the United States serving as asylum for writers and artists in exile and “as a home for freedom of creative expression,” according to the institution’s website. The Wylie Agency, which represents Rushdie, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.