CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. (AP / WROC) — Salman Rushdie, the author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked Friday as he was about to give a lecture in western New York.
According to New York State Police, 24-year-old Hadi Matar ran onto the stage and stabbed Rushdie at least one time in the neck. The 75-year-old author was pushed or fell to the floor, and Matar was restrained.
Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest. Police say Rushdie was transported by helicopter to an area hospital. His condition is not yet known.
A nearby interviewer, Ralph Henry Reese, also suffered a minor head injury, according to officials.
The deputies assigned to the event took Matar, who is from Fairview New Jersey, into custody. Hundreds of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were then evacuated.
Police said Matar did have a pass to access the event.
Gov. Kathy Hochul thanked the responding deputy at the scene of the apparent attack and called the incident a “heartbreaking” moments after.
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 $3 million has also been offered for anyone who kills Rushdie.
Iran’s government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has lingered. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
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. The title came from the pseudonym Rushdie had used while in hiding.
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.”
The Chautauqua Institution, about 55 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, is known for its summertime lecture series. Rushdie has spoken there before.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.