OAccording to Saturday’s police statement, the attacker of Salman Rushdie, the internationally acclaimed author, was charged with attempted murder as well as assault.
Witnesses say that the alleged attacker, Hadi Matar, 24, leaped onto the stage at Chautauqua Institution as Rushdie was being introduced and attacked him–an altercation that left Rushdie with multiple stab wounds, primarily in the neck. Rushdie was taken to hospital, and he remains under ventilator. Matar was not charged Saturday.
“The news is not good,” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, told the New York TimesFriday evening “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
There were security concerns about Rushdie’s lecture at the university, which was being held in an auditorium that seats 4,000. Matar bought tickets to the event. CNN sources said that the institution previously refused to implement security measures such as metal detectors and bag checks in order to maintain the relationship between lecturers and audience members.
Matar, a Fairview, New Jersey resident, was booked in the Chautauqua county jail on one count of attempted second-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault because Henry Reese, Rushdie’s interviewer who was on stage too at the time of the attack, suffered a minor facial injury. Reese manages an organization which supports writers under political persecution.
“Salman Rushdie is one of the great authors of our time and one of the great defenders of freedom of speech and freedom of creative expression. We revere him and our paramount concern is for his life,” Reese wrote for a PEN America tweetFollowing the attack.
“The fact that this attack could occur in the United States is indicative of the threats to writers from many governments and from many individuals and organizations. In addition to wishing Salman well as Americans and citizens of the world, we need to re-commit ourselves to defending the values Salman has championed,” Reese added.
The motive behind the attack is still being investigated by authorities. Rushdie was subject to a series of violence and threats since 1998, when his novel was published. Satanic VersesBased on Muhammad’s life, the story adds three controversial verses to The Quran.
The book was promptly banned in over a dozen Muslim countries and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran declared a fatwa against Rushdie—an edict derived from Islamic law that calls for assasination. Rushdie has been publishing along with other authors since then. Satanic VersesThey have been through many hardships in their life.
Fellow authors, activists and public officials are condemning the attack and reiterating the impact that Rushdie’s work and advocacy have had to preserve free speech despite all the risks he’s faced for decades.
Just weeks before the attack, Rushdie shared with the press that he thought his life was “relatively normal” now.
“It destroys my individuality as a person and as a writer,” Rushdie told the Guardian last year while talking about the fatwa. “I’m not a geopolitical entity. I’m someone writing in a room.”
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