Internationally acclaimed novelist Salman Rushdie—who had a fatwa (religious edict) placed on him by Iran since the late 1980s—was stabbed on Friday as he took the stage during a speaking engagement in western New York, less than an hour from Lake Erie.
During a press conference later in the afternoon, New York State Police identified the attacker as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, of Fairview, N.J., who it said stabbed Rushdie in the neck and at least twice in the abdomen.1
The police said that no motive has yet been determined for the attack.
According to the Associated Press, whose reporter witnessed the stabbing, at approximately 11 a.m., a man stormed the stage of the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., and began stabbing the 75-year-old author as he was being introduced.
Rushdie fell to the floor as a group of people went on the stage to restrain the attacker and begin giving Rushdie first aid. The person interviewing Rushdie, Henry Reese, also suffered a minor injury to his face in the attack and was released after being treated at a hospital.
Hundreds of shocked audience members were then evacuated from the scene while a trooper who was assigned to the event and a deputy with the Chautauqua Sheriff’s Office, immediately took Matar into custody.
Rushdie was then evacuated to a hospital by helicopter for treatment at the closest trauma center.
Republican State Sen. George Borrello, who represents the area where Rushdie was stabbed, said in a statement that authorities believe the attacker was motivated by “fundamentalist extremism.”
“This shocking attack on a celebrated and noted author, apparently prompted by fundamentalist extremism, has no place in America,” Borrello said. “The Founding Fathers fled tyranny and knew all too well the dangers of absolutism and religious zealotry. There is no room, in a free society, for beliefs that demand that you kill someone who disagrees with you.”
Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, told AP later that day that Rushdie was undergoing surgery for his injuries.
The Indian-born writer, who now lives and teaches permanently in the United States, became the target of death threats after his 1988 book The Satanic Verses was deemed blasphemous by Muslims around the world and banned in Iran. The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa against Rushdie, offering a reward $3 million reward to anyone who kills him.
According to the AP, the Iranian government had attempted to back away from Khomeini’s fatwa in the decades since; however, it turns out that in 2021, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
Rushdie’s condition is not yet known.