Thu | Oct 6, 2022

Salman Rushdie on ventilator after stabbing, may lose an eye

Published:Saturday | August 13, 2022 | 10:19 AM
In this still image from video, author Salman Rushdie is taken on a stretcher to a helicopter for transport to a hospital after he was attacked during a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY, Friday, August 12, 2022. (AP Photo)

MAYVILLE, NY. (AP) — Author Salman Rushdie remained hospitalised Saturday and may lose and eye after suffering serious injuries in a stabbing attack in the United States on Friday.

The incident was met with shock and outrage but also tributes and praise for the award-winning writer who for more than 30 years has faced death threats for his novel "The Satanic Verses". 

Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator and unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday evening. Rushdie was likely to lose the injured eye.

Authors, activists and government officials condemned the attack and cited Rushdie's courage for his longtime advocacy of free speech despite the risks to his own safety.

Rushdie's fellow author and longtime friend Ian McEwan called him “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” and the actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora toward whom he's shown incredible warmth.”

Police identified the suspect as Hadi Matar, 24. He was arrested after the attack at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center where Rushdie was scheduled to speak.

Authorities said Matar is from Fairview, New Jersey. He was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun, a border village in southern Lebanon, the mayor of the village, Ali Tehfe, told The Associated Press.

Rushdie, a native of India who has since lived in Britain and the US, is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning novel from 1981, “Midnight's Children,” in which he sharply criticized India's then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims regarding as blasphemy a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections. Rushdie's book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran's Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie's death.

Investigators were working to determine whether the assailant, born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” was published, acted alone.

Iran's theocratic government and its state-run media assigned no rationale for the assault. In Tehran, some Iranians interviewed by the AP praised the attack on an author they believe tarnished the Islamic faith, while others worried it would further isolate their country.

An AP reporter witnessed the attacker confront Rushdie on stage and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as the author was being introduced. Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie's wounds as “serious but recoverable.”

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, a co-founder of an organization that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, was also attacked. Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile.

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