Author of "Satanic Verses" Salman Rushdie on a ventilator after attack; suspect identified


Salman Rushdie, a USA TODAY bestselling novelist whose books have received death threats, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen on Friday as he prepared to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.

Author Salman Rushdie was reportedly on a ventilator Friday night with a damaged liver, cut nerves in an arm, and a potentially lost eye, according to Rushdie's agent Andrew Wylie of The Wylie Agency.

A state trooper assigned to the event, according to New York police, arrested a suspect following the attack. According to Major Eugene Staniszewsk of the New York State Police, the suspect was revealed to be Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, during a press conference on Friday afternoon. According to Staniszewsk, authorities do not "have any indication of a motivation at this moment," and charges against Matar have not yet been brought as they collaborate with the District Attorney's office to examine the available information and keep an eye on Rushdie's health.

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York stated earlier on Friday that Rushdie "is a person who has spoken up against injustice for many years. Someone who, despite the dangers that have dogged him throughout his adult life, has gone out there fearless."

At the occasion was Travis Seward, general manager of USA TODAY's 10Best. He saw a man "bound" with his "arms out swinging" from the audience toward the stage. Rushdie attempted to flee the assailant but fell, according to Seward, who claimed not to have heard the assailant yell anything.

Everyone in this room finds it to be really frightening, Seward remarked. It was unexpected and it's a peaceful spot.

According to authorities, Rushdie was sent to a hospital and the interviewer "suffered a minor head injury." According to Staniszewsk, the interviewer received treatment and was discharged from the hospital.

According to a statement provided to USA TODAY, the Chautauqua Institution "is actively cooperating with law enforcement and emergency personnel on a public response."

Rushdie has been "targeted for his words," according to Suzanne Nossel, chief executive officer of PEN America, a charity that promotes literature and human rights while defending free speech.

Salman Rushdie, a steadfast supporter and former president of PEN America, was subjected to a cruel, planned attack, according to Nossel. "No similar incidence of a public violent assault on a writer of literature on American soil comes to mind. We passionately hope and trust that his indispensable voice cannot and will not be muffled."

Rushdie is a British-American author of Indian descent. Six of his novels are USA TODAY bestsellers. He has written more than a dozen books. Since the late 1980s, his novel "The Satanic Verses" has been prohibited in Iran; many Muslims view it as blasphemous. According to History.com, "The novel made fun of the Prophet Muhammad and other aspects of Islam, as well as having a character who was obviously based on the Supreme Leader of Iran."

Following the publication of the book, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, demanding Rushdie's execution.

Although the Iranian government had long since distanced itself from Khomeini's order, animosity for Rushdie persisted. Rushdie's reward was increased from $2.8 million to $3.3 million in 2012 by a semi-official Iranian religious institution.

It is unclear whether the attack on Friday was somehow related to the directive.

Rushdie brushed off the danger at the time. Rushdie released a memoir on the fatwa in that year titled "Joseph Anton."

Earlier last week, Colleen Lough, 65, of Grosse Ile, Michigan, made her first trip to Chautauqua. She was situated about 20 rows from from the stage when Rushdie was attacked. According to her, the attacker was covered with "a black stocking or something like" and was clad entirely in black.

People just started yelling, "No! no!," she added, adding that it was shocking to see this occurring in front of them.

Lough, an Episcopal chaplain, has volunteered in the neighborhood Hurlbut Church to help anyone who require support in dealing with what they saw.

No one should ever be afraid to express their opinions for fear of being hurt or killed, "She spoke. "Everyone should be able to express their opinions and engage in discussion about them without fear of violence, even during these contentious political times where many of us do not agree.

At the press conference on Friday, Chautauqua Institution President Dr. Michael E. Hill stated that the incident will not have an affect on the speakers the institution chooses.

"His entire life has included this in order to express thoughts. He is regarded as one of the most important defenders of free speech. In light of this tragedy, I believe the worst thing Chautauqua could do is to abandon its goals, and I doubt Mr. Rushdie would support that either "added Hill.

"Quichotte," Rushdie's most recent book, was released in the year 2019. Rushdie satirizes former President Donald Trump's America with a contemporary Don Quixote in this adaptation of the Miguel de Cervantes classic. The novel was on the Booker Prize long list.

The author plans to release "Victory City: A Novel" in 2023. The book centers on a lady who "breathes a fantastical empire into reality, only to be eaten by it over the decades."

Contributing: Joshua Goodman, The Associated Press; Kristen Shamus, The Detroit Free Press, USA TODAY Network