Rushdie was attacked while on stage delivering a lecture in New York on Friday. He had to undergo surgery and was kept on a ventilator and unable to speak hours after the incident. Writers and politicians around the world have condemned the attack calling it an assault on the freedom of expression.
In an email, his book agent Andrew Wylie wrote, “The news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
The 75-year-old was being introduced on stage ahead of his lecture at western New York’s Chautauqua Institution when a man rushed to the stage and lunged at him.
Attendees and security personnel pulled the attacker off him, however, Rushdie had fallen to the floor. The attacker was arrested and was identified as Hadi Matar aged 24 years. He had bought a pass to the event.
An audience member, Bradley Fisher said, “A man jumped up on the stage from I don't know where and started what looked like beating him on the chest, repeated fist strokes into his chest and neck. People were screaming and crying out and gasping.”
The noted novelist was tended by a doctor in the audience while emergency services arrived. The moderator of the event, Henry Reese also suffered minor head injuries. Police informed that they were looking into the matter and were working with the federal investigators to understand the motive. They refrained from describing the weapon used in the attack.
Born into a Muslim Kashmiri family in erstwhile Bombay, Rushdie moved to the United Kingdom. He has long faced death threats for his novel “The Satanic Verses”. It was banned in countries with large Muslim populations upon publication in 1988 as it allegedly contained blasphemous passages.
The then supreme leader of Iran, Ayaatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had pronounced a fatwa calling Muslims to kill the novelist and anyone involved in the publication of the book.