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New York

Author Salman Rushdie in surgery after being stabbed onstage at New York event

Rushdie has spent several years under heavily armed guard following death threats from Iran.

LAST UPDATE | 12 Aug 2022

AUTHOR SALMAN RUSHDIE, whose writings have attracted death threats from Iran, is undergoing emergency surgery after being stabbed in the neck and abdomen at an event in New York state.

Rushdie was speaking at a literary event at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, Western New York when he was attacked. 

He was rushed by helicopter to hospital and taken into surgery, his agent Andrew Wylie said in a statement, pledging to provide an update on his condition as soon as possible.

Speaking to reporters this evening, New York State Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from Fairview, New Jersey.

They said that at about 11am local time, a male suspect ran up onto the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer.

“The suspect jumped on the stage and attacked Mr Rushdie, stabbing him at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen,” they said.

“Several members of staff at the institution and audience members rushed the suspect and took him to the ground, and shortly thereafter, a trooper who was at the institution took the suspect into custody with the assistance of a Chautauqua County Sheriff’s deputy.”

The police confirmed that Rushdie is still undergoing surgery.

Carl LeVan, an American University politics professor attending the event, told AFP that the morning session was about to begin when the suspect ran onto the stage where Rushdie was seated and “stabbed him repeatedly and viciously.”

LeVan, a Chautauqua regular, said the suspect “was trying to stab him as many times as possible before he was subdued,” adding that he believed the man “was trying to kill” Rushdie.”

“There were gasps of horror and panic from the crowd,” the professor said.

LeVan said witnessing the event had left him “shaken,” adding he considered Chautauqua a safe place of creative freedom.

“To know that this happened here, and to see it – it was horrific,” he said. “What I saw today was the essence of intolerance.”

Rushdie is the author of the controversial Satanic Verses and is understood to have just begun speaking at the Chautauqua Institution when the incident occurred. 

Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous.

A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.

A bounty of over three million dollars was offered for anyone who kills the British-Indian author, although the Iranian government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingered.

In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie to $3.3 million (now £2.7m).

Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward.

That year, Rushdie published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about the fatwa.

Additional reporting Aoife Barry and Niall O’Connor 

Press Association