Salman Rushdie may lose an eye, on ventilator after being stabbed at New York event

CHAUTAUQUA, NEW YORK, AUGUST 12: Author Salman Rushdie suffered severed nerves in an arm and damage to his liver, and will likely lose an eye, after he was stabbed on Friday, his agent said, adding that Mr. Rushdie was on a ventilator. The author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked by a man who rushed the stage as he was about to give a lecture in western New York. A bloodied Mr. Rushdie, 75, was flown to a hospital. “The news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” said Andrew Wylie, who earlier informed the media that Mr. Rushdie was undergoing surgery. The police, in a press briefing, confirmed the identity of the attacker but said the motive was not yet determined. Hadi Matar, 24, a native of New Jersey, is in police custody, and it is learnt that he was acting alone. The police also added that Mr. Matar had a pass access to the event. Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Mr. Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.” Event moderator Henry Reese, a co-founder of an organisation that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, was also attacked and suffered a minor head injury, police said. He and Mr. Rushdie were due to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile. An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man confront Mr. Rushdie on stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin punching or stabbing him 10 to 15 times as he was being introduced. The 75-year-old author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was arrested. Authorities did not immediately identify the attacker or offer any information on his motive. Police said a State trooper was assigned to Mr. Rushdie’s lecture and made the arrest. But after the attack, some longtime visitors to the centre questioned why there wasn’t tighter security for the event, given the decades of threats against Mr. Rushdie and a bounty on his head in the Muslim world offering more than $3 million for anyone who kills him. Rabbi Charles Savenor was among the hundreds of people in the audience. Amid gasps, spectators were ushered out of the outdoor amphitheatre. The assailant ran onto the 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,” Rabbi Savenor said. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds. Another spectator, Kathleen Jones, said the attacker was dressed in black, with a black mask. “We thought perhaps it was part of a stunt to show that there’s still a lot of controversy around this author. But it became evident in a few seconds” that it wasn’t, she said. Mr. Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest. Mr. Rushdie has been a prominent spokesman for free 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. Mr. 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 Mr. Rushdie’s death. Iran’s 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 Mr. Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million. Mr. Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward. That year, Mr. Rushdie published a memoir, Joseph Anton about the fatwa. (Agencies)