NEW YORK (Reuters) – Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie, the target of death threats since the publication of “The Satanic Verses” in 1988, has been placed on life support after being stabbed in the neck on Friday as he walked was about to attend a conference in New York State, USA, his agent said.
“The news is not good. Salman is expected to lose an eye, the nerves in his arm have been severed, and his liver has been hit and damaged,” Andrew Wylie said in a statement.
The author was attacked on Friday by a man who rushed to the stage of the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, while the writer was about to participate in a debate dedicated to to creative freedom.
Rushdie, who is 75, collapsed to the ground and was immediately surrounded by a small group of people who tried to help him. He was later transferred to a hospital by helicopter.
The perpetrator, whose motive is not yet known, was arrested and taken into custody. Police said it was a 24-year-old man from New Jersey, whom they identified as Hadi Matar and who they said they believed acted alone.
On February 14, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, issued a fatwa (religious decree) calling on Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie for his writings, forcing the British author to live in hiding.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan called the incident “appalling”. “We are grateful to the citizens and emergency services who rescued him so quickly,” he wrote on Twitter.
“For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter. “His fight is ours, universal. Today, more than ever, we are by his side.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed dismay after the attack, saying Salman Rushdie had been “stabbed while exercising a right that we should never stop defending.”
Salman Rushdie has lived in New York for 20 years and obtained American citizenship in 2016. His next novel is due out in February.
(Report Kanishka Singh, Jonathan Allen, Randi Love, Tyler Clifford and Maria Ponnezhath, with contributions from Michelle Nichols and Andrew Hay; French version Camille Raynaud)