Salman Rushdie, 75, the author of The Satanic Verses, published in 1988, was stabbed on stage in New York on Friday just before giving a speech, the New York Times reported.
Just as he started his speech, the attacker, identified as Hadi Matar, 24, from New Jersey, stabbed Rushdie in the abdomen and the neck, managing to continue stabbing repeatedly even as several people fought to hold him back. Ralph Henry Reese, who set up a sanctuary for persecuted writers in Pittsburgh as part of the City of Asylum network, also suffered an injury to his face during the attack.
“The news is not good,” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie said in an email to the New York Times, “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
The Indian-born writer started to receive death threats from Islamists and Iran after the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a religious edict in 1989 ordering Muslims to kill Mr Rushdie. A price was put on his head of several million dollars.
Mr Rushdie, who lived in London at the time, went into hiding, and moved into a safe house under the protection of the British police for most of the next 10 years.
In the 30 plus years since the publication of The Satanic Verses, the book has been accused of insulting Islam, the writer has been under threat and many of the translators of the book in various languages have also been attacked.
Rushdie has always advocated for freedom of speech. Together with Marc Auge and many other philosophers, he called on Turkey to stop the massacre of Kurds in 2019.
Rushdie has also been censored by a publishing house in Turkey. The word “Kurdistan” in Rushdie’s novel The Enchantress of Florence was translated as “Kurdish cities” in the Turkish translation.
Two days after the attack, Rushdie was improved enough to breathe independently and to talk, and Matar has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.