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Author Salman Rushdie on ventilator, may lose eye following stabbing in New York

Salman Rushdie remained in hospital on Saturday after sustaining serious injuries in a stab attack, which has been greeted with shock and outrage by much of the world, along with tributes and praise to the award-winning author who has spent more than 30 years with death. is threatened for his novel “The Satanic Verses.”

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

Rushdie’s alleged attacker, Hadi Matar, is due to appear in court on Saturday for attempted murder and assault, authorities said. A message was left with his lawyer asking for comment.

Authors, activists and government officials condemned the attack, citing Rushdie’s bravery for his lengthy advocacy of free speech, despite the risks to his own safety.

Rushdie’s co-author and longtime friend Ian McEwan called him “an inspiring defender of persecuted writers and journalists around the world,” and actor-author Kal Penn called him a role model “for a whole generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora to whom he has shown incredible warmth.

Matar, 24, was arrested after the attack on the Chautauqua Institution, a non-profit education and retreat center where Rushdie was supposed to speak.

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

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

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

Khomeini died the same year he issued the fatwa, which is still in force. Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has never issued its own fatwa to revoke the edict, although Iran has not targeted the writer in recent years.

Investigators were trying to determine whether the attacker, born ten years after “The Satanic Verses” was published, was acting alone.

Iran’s theocratic government and state-run media gave no reason for the attack. In Tehran, some Iranians interviewed by the AP praised the attack on an author they believe has tarnished the Islamic faith, while others feared it would further isolate their country.

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An AP reporter witnessed the attacker confront Rushdie onstage and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times while introducing the author. dr. Martin Haskell, a physician among those rushing to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable”.

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

A police officer and a county deputy sheriff were assigned to Rushdie’s lecture, and the state police said the police made the arrest. But after the attack, some longtime visitors to the center wondered why there wasn’t tighter security for the event, given the threats against Rushdie and a bounty on his head that paid more than $3 million to anyone who killed him.

Matar, like other visitors, had been given a pass to enter the 750-acre site of the Chautauqua institution, said Michael Hill, the institution’s president.

Rabbi Charles Savenor was one of approximately 2,500 people in the audience for Rushdie’s performance.

The attacker ran up the platform’ and began pounding Mr. Rushdie. At first you think, “What’s going on?” And then within seconds it became abundantly clear that he was being beaten,” Savenor said. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.

Another onlooker, Kathleen James, said the attacker was dressed in black, with a black mask.

Sobbing, the spectators were led out of the outdoor amphitheater.

The stabbing reverberated from the quiet town of Chautauqua to the United Nations, which issued a statement expressing the disgust of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and emphasizing that free speech and opinion should not be met with violence.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday’s attack, which led an evening news bulletin on Iranian state television. From the White House, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan described the attack as “reprehensible” and said the Biden administration wished Rushdie a speedy recovery.

After the publication of “The Satanic Verses,” violent protests often erupted in the Muslim world against Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family and has long identified as a non-believer, who once called himself “a hard-core atheist.” .”

Riots over the book have killed at least 45 people, including 12 in Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai. In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot at three times and survived.

The death threats and bounties prompted Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government protection program, which included a 24-hour armed guard. Rushdie emerged after nine years of seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism in general.

In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir, ‘Joseph Anton’, about the fatwa. The title came from the pseudonym Rushdie used during his hiding place. He said in a New York speech the same year that the memoir came out that terrorism was really the art of fear.

“The only way to beat it is to decide not to be afraid,” he said.

Located about 55 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, the Chautauqua Institute has served as a place for reflection and spiritual guidance for over a century. Visitors do not go through metal detectors and do not undergo bag checks. Most people leave the doors of their centuries-old cottages unlocked at night.

The center is known for its summer lecture series, where Rushdie has spoken before.

During an evening vigil, several hundred residents and visitors gathered for prayer, music and a long moment of silence.

“Hate can’t win,” one man shouted.

(AP)

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