Salman Rushdie Attacked on Stage in Chautauqua, N.Y.

(CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y.) — Salman Rushdie, the author whose writing 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 western New York.

An Associated Press reporter saw Rushdie, a man on the Chautauqua Institution stage, confront Rushdie and start punching or stabbing Rushdie 10-15 times during his introduction. The man, who was 75 years old, was forced to his knees or fell on the floor and was eventually arrested.

According to state police, Rushdie was flown by helicopter to the hospital. He was uninjured at the time.

Rabbi Charles Savenor was one of the many people present. Amidst gasps and cheers, the spectators were led out of the amphitheater.

“This guy ran on to platform and started pounding on Mr. Rushdie. At first you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it became abundantly clear in a few seconds that he was being beaten,” Savenor said. The attack was said to have lasted approximately 20 seconds.

Salman Rushdie’s 10 questions starting in 2010

Rushdie became bloody and was soon surrounded by some people, who raised their legs to try to get more blood into his heart.

Rushdie was a prominent spokesperson for freedom of expression and liberal causes. He is a former president of PEN America, which said it was “reeling from shock and horror” at the attack.

“We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil,” CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.

“Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered,” she added.

His 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” was viewed as blasphemous by many Muslims. Many violent protests were held against Rushdie all over the world. One such riot was in Mumbai that saw 12 deaths.

The novel was banned in Iran, where the late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.

Rushdie’s murderer has been awarded a bounty in excess of $3 million.

Rushdie fled to safety under the protection of the British government, which included a guard and an armed force that was available round-the clock. Rushdie was released after nine years in seclusion. He cautiously returned to public life, continuing his criticisms of religious extremism.

Iran’s government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has lingered. According to the Index on Censorship (an organization that promotes free expression), money was used as a reward for Khomeini’s murder as recently as 2016. This underlines the fact that his fatwa remains.

In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton,” about the fatwa. Rushdie was hiding under a pseudonym that he used to title the book.

Rushdie rose to prominence with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” but his name became known around the world after “The Satanic Verses.”

Chautauqua Institution in rural New York is well-known for hosting summertime lectures. Rushdie has previously spoken at the Chautauqua Institution.

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