Salman Rushdie is doing a little better according to his relatives, two days after the writer of satanic verses, threatened with death since 1989 by a fatwa from Iran, was stabbed at least ten times by an American of Lebanese origin, in the north of the United States. This Friday morning attack on the stage of an amphitheater in the cultural center of the quiet town of Chautauqua, near Lake Erie in upstate New York, shocked in the West but was hailed by Muslim extremists. The 75-year-old British and American intellectual is no longer on life support and “the road to recovery has begun”, welcomed his agent Andrew Wylie in a press release sent to the washington post.
“The injuries are serious, but his condition is moving in the right direction,” added this close friend of the world-famous writer, stabbed ten times in the neck and abdomen. A 24-year-old man, Hadi Matar, had rushed to the stage before Salman Rushdie spoke at the Chautauqua cultural center.
Zafar Rushdie, his son, confirmed on Twitter that his father “was able to say a few words” and that he “kept his sense of humor intact”. The family said they were “extremely relieved”.
— Zafar Rushdie (@ZafRushdie) August 14, 2022
Salman Rushdie remains hospitalized in Erie, Pennsylvania, on the edge of the lake that separates the United States from Canada. While Sunday’s news is reassuring, Constable Wylie was alarmist on Friday when he spoke of serious arm and liver injuries and the possible loss of an eye. Conference host Henry Reese, 73, who was lightly shot in the face, told CNN the attack “felt like some kind of bad joke (that) didn’t seem real. When there was blood behind him, it became real”.
Their attacker, Hadi Matar, born in the United States, living in New Jersey and whose parents are from a village in southern Lebanon, was charged with “attempted murder and assault”. In a black and white striped prisoner’s uniform, handcuffed and masked, he did not say a word on Saturday evening before the Chautauqua court and pleaded “not guilty” by the voice of his lawyer. He is due to appear again on August 19.
Without giving a motive, prosecutors called thepremeditated attack. The attack caused shock waves, particularly in the West: US President Joe Biden paid tribute to Salman Rushdie for his “refusal to be intimidated and silenced”. Living in New York for twenty years, naturalized American in 2016, Salman Rushdie had resumed an almost normal public life while continuing to defend, in his books, satire and irreverence.
Coincidence, the German magazine Stern had interviewed him a few days before the attack: “Since I have been living in the United States, I no longer have a problem (…) My life is normal again”, assures the writer, in this interview with to appear on August 18, saying he was “optimistic” despite “daily death threats”.
Salman Rushdie, born in 1947 in India into a family of non-practicing Muslim intellectuals, set part of the Islamic world ablaze with the publication in 1988 of satanic verses, judged by the most rigorous Muslims as blasphemous with regard to the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad, and leading the Iranian Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini to issue the fatwa demanding his assassination. The fatwa has in fact never been lifted and many of its translators have come under attack.
“His fight is ours, universal,” said President Emmanuel Macron, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “horrified”. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid – whose country is an enemy of Iran – denounced “the result of decades of incitement to murder by the extremist Iranian regime”. But in Muslim countries, the attack was welcomed by extremists.
For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. Hate and barbarism have just struck him, cowardly. His fight is ours, universal. Today, more than ever, we are at his side.
—Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 12, 2022
In Iran, the ultra-conservative daily Kayhan praised “that brave, duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and vicious Salman Rushdie” and the newspaper Javan writes on Sunday that it is a plot by the United States which “probably wants to spread Islamophobia in the world”.
JK Rowling under threat
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Iranian state media were “gloating” over the attack on the intellectual. “It’s despicable,” he said in a statement.
In Pakistan, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party – notorious for its violence against what it considers anti-Muslim blasphemy – said Rushdie “deserved to be killed”. In the UK, police are investigating a threat that Harry Potter author JK Rowling said she was targeting on Twitter after expressing her support for Salman Rushdie.
—JK Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 13, 2022