Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie was attacked onstage Friday as he prepared to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. According to a statement from the New York State Police, a man rushed the stage at about 11 a.m. and attacked both Rushdie and the event’s moderator. Authorities later stated the assailant was restrained by onlookers before being taken into custody by a state trooper assigned to the event.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, New York State Police Major Eugene J. Staniszewski identified the suspect in as 24-year-old Fairview, New Jersey resident Hadi Matar, but stated officials had yet to identify a motive. Staniszewski indicated that Rushdie, 75, was stabbed “at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen,” and that a doctor present in the audience “immediately began first aid for Mr. Rushdie” until medics arrived. Moderator Ralph Henry Reese, meanwhile, suffered a minor head injury, according to a police statement.
Rushdie spent several hours undergoing surgery Friday afternoon at a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania and remains in serious condition. “The news is not good,” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, said in an email to The New York Times, noting that the author was on a ventilator and unable to speak. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.” Wylie did not return Rolling Stone‘s request for additional comment.
Local authorities are working in conjunction with the FBI to examine Matar’s background, Staniszewski said. On Saturday, Matar was charged with attempted murder and assault, both in the second degree; he pleaded not guilty to both charges at his arraignment hearing, CBS News reported.
Responding to a request for comment, a media contact for Chautauqua, a renowned summer arts and culture resort in Western New York, said, “Chautauqua Institution is currently coordinating with law enforcement and emergency officials on a public response following today’s attack of Salman Rushdie on the Chautauqua Amphitheater stage. We will provide more details as we know them.” A representative for the Chautauqua Institution Police Department said they did not have any information to provide.
The Satanic Verses, a novel, was banned in Iran after its 1988, considered blasphemous, and in 1989, Iran’s then-leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering the execution of the British-Indian author. Multiple assassination attempts on Rushdie followed. A bounty of $3 million was also offered for Rushdie’s killing. The Iran government has since distanced itself from the decree, but in 2012 an Iranian religious foundation upped the bounty to $3.3 million.
Tatiana Siegel contributed reporting
This story was updated at 8:23 p.m. EST on Friday, Aug. 13 to add a statement from Rushdie’s agent and information from a New York State Police news conference, and at 1:30 p.m. Saturday to add the charges against Matar and his not guilty plea.