Salman Rushdie stabbing: Police seek motive as author remains in hospital

The writer is likely to lose an injured eye



An officer stands outside a gate of the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York.  – AP
An officer stands outside a gate of the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York. – AP

By AP

Published: Sat 13 Aug 2022, 7:25 PM

Last updated: Sat 13 Aug 2022, 7:26 PM

Salman Rushdie remained hospitalised on Saturday after suffering serious injuries in a stabbing attack.

Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday evening. Rushdie was likely to lose the injured eye.

Police identified the suspect as Hadi Matar, 24. He was arrested after the attack at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center where Rushdie was scheduled to speak.

Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun, a border village in southern Lebanon, Mayor Ali Tehfe told The Associated Press.

Rushdie's novel “The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988. It was viewed as blasphemous. The book was banned in Iran where a fatwa was issued in 1989 fatwa.

Police said the motive for the Friday attack was unclear. Matar was born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” first was published. Investigators were working to determine whether the assailant acted alone.

Iran’s government and state-run media assigned no rationale for the assault.

An AP reporter witnessed the attacker confront Rushdie on stage and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as the author was being introduced. Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, a co-founder of an organization that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, was also attacked. Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile.

A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Rushdie’s lecture, and state police said the trooper made the arrest. But after the attack, some longtime visitors to the center questioned why there wasn’t tighter security for the event, given the decades of threats against Rushdie and a$3 million bounty on his head.

Matar, like other visitors, had obtained a pass to enter the Chautauqua Institution’s 750-acre grounds, Michael Hill, the institution’s president, said.

The suspect’s attorney, public defender Nathaniel Barone, said he was still gathering information and declined to comment. Matar’s home was blocked off by authorities.

Rabbi Charles Savenor was among the roughly 2,500 people in the audience for Rushdie's appearance.

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,” Savenor said. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.

Another spectator, Kathleen James, said the attacker was dressed in black, with a black mask.

Amid gasps, spectators were ushered out of the outdoor amphitheater.

The stabbing reverberated from the tranquil town of Chautauqua to the United Nations, which issued a statement expressing U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ horror and stressing that free expression and opinion should not be met with violence.

From the White House, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan described the attack as “reprehensible” and said the Biden administration wished Rushdie a quick recovery.

ALSO READ:


More news from World