CHAUTAUQUA, NY – Author Salman Rushdie was attacked and stabbed on stage during a lecture in western New York Friday morning according to multiple reports.
Set to start his lecture around 10:45 am at the Chautauqua Institution in front of hundreds of people, Rushdie, 75 years old, took the stage as he was announced. At this point, a so-far-unidentified man confronted Rushdie on the stage and started to “punch or stab” him, approximately 10-15 times. Rushdie was then either pushed or fell to the ground.
Reports later said that Rushdie had been stabbed in the neck and he was taken to the hospital by helicopter.
A trooper assigned to the event reportedly took the assailant into custody, although no information on the suspect was released at the time of this writing.
Rabbi Charles Savenor was present during the attack and spoke with a reporter from the Associated Press. “This guy ran on to platform and started pounding on Mr. Rushdie,” he said. “At first you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it became abundantly clear in a few seconds that he was being beaten.”
A book written by Rushdie in 1988, “The Satanic Verses,” was banned in Iran after being labeled as “blasphemous” by Muslims. Aside from banning the book, Iran’s former Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued an order for Rushie’s death, offering a bounty of over $3 million.
Many protests have been held against Rushdie since that time all over the world, including a Mumbai riot that ended up getting 12 people killed.
Rushdie was placed under law enforcement protection and went into hiding under a British government program, which included being guarded around the clock for approximately nine years. After that time, he began to slowly reemerge, eventually getting back to doing public appearances, with Iran having “distanced itself” from the order (or fatwa) calling for Rushdie’s death.
He maintained his talking points of standing against religious extremism, however, and there are still many against Rushdie and his statements. Reportedly, money had been raised to up the death order reward as recently as 2016, as the fatwa is still in effect. As of 2012, the bounty appeared to be approximately $3.3 million.
Rushdie published a book in 2012 called “Joseph Anton,” named for his fake name under hiding and government protection, discussing the fatwa.
Rushdie is the former president of PEN America, an organization dedicated to the preservation of freedom of speech. Current CEO Suzanne Nossel released a statement of the incident, which read in part, “We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil.
“Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning, Salman had emailed me to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge from the grave perils they face. Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered.”
The author’s condition is not known at this time.