CHAUTAKOA, New York (Associated Press) – Salman Rushdie, an author whose writings led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked and apparently stabbed in the neck Friday by a man who rushed the stage as he was about to give a lecture in the West. New York.
Rushdie, 75, bloodied, was taken to the hospital. His condition was not immediately known. His agent, Andrew Wylie, said the writer was undergoing surgery, but he had no further details.
An Associated Press reporter saw a man confront Rushdie on stage at the Chautauqua Institution and punch or stab him 10 to 15 times while introducing. The author was pushed or fell to the ground and the man was arrested.
The authorities did not immediately identify the attacker or provide any information on his motive.
State police said Rushdie was apparently stabbed in the neck. Governor Cathy Hochhol later said that he is alive and that he is “getting the care he needs”.
Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but curable.”
Police said event manager Henry Reese, co-founder of an organization that provides residencies for writers facing persecution, was also attacked and suffered a minor head injury.
Police said a state officer assigned Rushdie to lecture and made an arrest. But after the attack, some of the center’s long-time visitors wondered why there was no tight security for the event, given decades of threats against Rushdie and a bounty on his head in the Muslim world offering more than $3 million to whoever kills him. .
Rabbi Charles Savinor was among about 2,500 people in attendance. In the midst of a gasp, spectators were pushed out of the outdoor amphitheater.
The attacker ran onto the podium “and started bombarding Mr. Rushdie. At first I was like, ‘What’s going on?” And then it became quite clear in a few seconds that he was getting hit,” Savinor said. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.
Another onlooker, Kathleen Jones, said the attacker was wearing black clothes and a black mask.
“We thought it might have been part of a ploy to show that there was still a lot of controversy about this author. But it turned out in a few seconds” that it wasn’t, she said.
Rushdie has been a prominent speaker on freedom of expression and liberal issues. He is a former president of PEN America, which said she was “reeling from shock and awe” from the attack.
“We cannot think of an incident comparable to a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil,” CEO Susan Nossel said in a statement.
She added that Rushdie “has been targeted because of his words for decades, but he did not flinch or hesitate.”
His 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, which considered a character an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, was considered by many Muslims, among other objections. Around the world, violent protests often erupted against Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family. One riot killed 12 people in his hometown of Mumbai.
The book was banned in Iran, where the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989, calling for Rushdie’s death. Khomeini died in the same year.
The current Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, did not issue a fatwa on his own to withdraw the fatwa, although in recent years Iran has not focused on the writer.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday’s attack, which led to a nightly newscast on Iranian state television.
Death threats and a reward drove Rushdie into hiding under a British government protection program, which included a round-the-clock armed guard. Rushdie emerged after nine years of seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism in general.
He said in a 2012 talk in New York that terrorism is really the art of fear.
“The only way you can defeat her,” he said, “is if you decide not to be afraid.”
Anti-Rushdie sentiment persisted long after Khomeini’s decree. The Censorship Index, an organization that promotes free speech, said the money was raised to boost the reward for his recent murder in 2016.
An Associated Press journalist who went to the Tehran office of the 15 Khordad Foundation, which paid millions for Rushdie’s bounty, found it closed Friday night on the Iranian weekend. No one answered calls to the phone number listed.
In 2012 Rushdie published his memoirs entitled “Joseph Anton” on the fatwa. The title came from the alias Rushdie used when he was in hiding.
Rushdie rose to prominence with his 1981 Booker Prize-winning novel The Midnight Children, but his name became known worldwide after The Satanic Verses.
Widely regarded as one of Britain’s best alive writers, Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008, and earlier this year he was awarded the Companions of Honor, a royal honor for people who have made significant contributions to the arts. . Or science or public life.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “terrified” that Rushdie had been stabbed “in the exercise of a right we must not stop defending”.
The Chautauqua Institution, about 55 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, has served for more than a century as a place for spiritual reflection and guidance. Visitors do not pass through metal detectors or undergo baggage checks. Most people leave the doors of their century-old cottages locked at night.
The Chautauqua Center is best known for its summer lecture series, where Rushdie has spoken before. Speakers tackle a different topic each week. Rushdie and Reese are set to discuss “the United States as a haven for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for free creative expression”.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz in New York City; Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York; Michael Hill in Albany, New York; Nasser Karimi and Mehdi Fattahi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.
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