british writer Salman Rushdiewhose texts made him the target of Iranian death threats, underwent emergency surgery on Friday after being stabbed in the neck at a literary event in New York state.
Rushdie was airlifted to hospital and admitted to surgery, his agent Andrew Wylie said in a statement, promising to update information on the writer’s condition as soon as possible.
The state police New York earlier reported that Rushdie had been stabbed shortly before noon.ahead of a literary conference in Chautauqua, a town on Lake Erie about 70 miles south of Buffalo.
“The suspect ran up the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer. Rushdie was apparently stabbed in the neck,” according to a statement, which said the interviewer also suffered a head injury.
A state trooper assigned to the event in the Chautauqua Institutionwhere Rushdie was to give a talk, “immediately arrested the suspect,” added the text, which does not provide details about his identity or probable motive for the attack.
In images posted online, people could be seen giving emergency medical care on stage.
“A horrible event just happened at #chautauquainstitution: Salman Rushdie was attacked on stage at #chq2022. The amphitheater was evacuated,” a witness said on social media.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul condemned the attack, praising Rushdie as “a person who has spent decades speaking truth to power.”
A hidden decade
The 75-year-old writer rose to fame with his second novel “Midnight’s Children” in 1981, which garnered international acclaim and the UK’s prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India.
But his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” made a big splash by prompting a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for his death by Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The novel was considered by some Muslims to be disrespectful to the Prophet Muhammad.
Rushdie, born in 1947 in Bombay into a family of non-practicing Muslims and a declared atheist, was forced to live in hiding when a bounty was offered for his head that is still valid.
The UK government, where he studied and made his home, gave him police protection after the murder or attempted murder of his translators and publishers.
He spent nearly a decade in hiding, constantly moving houses and unable to tell his children where he lived.
Rushdie only began to come out of hiding in the late 1990s, after Iran said in 1998 that it would not support his assassination.
He currently lives in New York and is a strong advocate for freedom of expression. He made a strong defense of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after a group of Islamists killed some of its staff in Paris in 2015.
The magazine had published drawings of Muhammad that provoked furious reactions among Muslims around the world.
Threats and boycotts persist against Rushdie’s literary events, and his 2007 knighthood sparked protests in Iran and Pakistan, where a government minister said it justified suicide bombings.
But the fatwa failed to silence Rushdie and inspired his memoir “Joseph Anton,” the name of his alias while in hiding, which is written in the third person.
Rushdie’s books have been translated into more than 40 languages and his novel “Midnight’s Children”, which is over 600 pages long, has been adapted for stage and screen.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “horrified” by what happened.
Suzanne Nossel, director in the United States of the PEN organization, which advocates for freedom of expression, highlighted her support for the “intrepid Salman”, wishing him “a full and speedy recovery”.
“Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning, Salman emailed me to help with the locations of Ukrainian writers in need of safe haven from the grave dangers they face,” Nossel said in a statement.
“Your essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.”