British-American novelist, Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, attacked and stabbed multiple times at NYC event

August 16, 2022

Indian-born British-American novelist, Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, was stabbed several times in the head, neck, and abdomen this week in Chautauqua, New York City as he took the stage to speak at a literary festival at the Chautauqua Institution on August 12, 2022.

Rushdie has been awarded many titles and honors throughout his career and is a two-time Booker Prize winner, elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, electee to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and former professor at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia.

As he was being introduced, Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie was attacked by a man, who has now been identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey.

In 1988, Rushdie penned his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses. The novel was one of the finalists for the 1988 Booker Prize in the UK and although well received in England, going on to win the 1988 Whitbread prize, it caused then supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to put out a death threat against the writer that saw Rushdie placed under police protection for the next several years. Khomeini called the book Blasphemous, and put out a fatwa calling for: “the death of the author of the Satanic Verses book, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Qur'an.”

Rushdie put out a statement in response, saying his book was not at all a blasphemy against Islam-doubting the leaders of people of Iran had read the text in its entirety.

The book was banned in Iran, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Kenya, India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Indonesia, Singapore, Venezuela, Pakistan and Thailand, all countries with significant Muslim populations, and caused the U.K and Iran to break diplomatic relations in March of 1989.

Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh, known as the first martyr, accidentally blew himself up, along with two floors of a Paddington Hotel in London, on 3 August 1989, when a book bomb he was making to assassinate Rushdie exploded prematurely.  

Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the current supreme leader of Iran who came into office in 1989, continued the fatwa, adding: "any of those involved in its (The Satanic Verse) publication who are aware of its content," and offering a massive million dollar bounty to be paid by the 15 Khordad Foundation. The bounty increased to over $3 million dollars over time.

Just two weeks before he was attacked, Rushdie had said in an interview in Germany: “nowadays my life is very normal again.”

The death threats and attempts at assassinating Rushdie over the years did not cease and those involved with the book were also targeted. Hitoshi Igarashi, who translated The Satanic Verses into Japanese, was later mysteriously murdered in his office in Tsukuba, Ibarakie, Japan.

Igarashi was a scholar of both Arabic and Persian literature as well as a writer. He was responsible for the translation of The Satanic Verses into Japanese, for which he received death threats and, just like Rushdie, a fatwa issued against him for his involvement with the novel. He avoided an attack in 1990 at a press conference when an attack by a Pakistani Muslim man was foiled by security, however, he lost his life in 2006 to an unknown killer who stabbed him to death in his own office.

In the late eighties, bombs were even planted outside of Penguin Publisher bookstores in England and in 1991, the Italian translator of the novel, Ettore Capriolo, was also the victim of a knife attack.

Rushdie was knighted for services to Literature in 2007 by Queen Elizabeth II, an event that caused protests and demonstrations in Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia.

The stabbing of Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie happened on August 12, 2022 at approximately 10:47 a.m. as the novelist approached the stage where he was preparing to speak on the subject of exiled writers and the safety they were afforded in the U.S. It was then that Hadi Matar made his way to the stage and ran at the author, stabbing him in the neck and body and continuing his frenzied attack even after being restrained by multiple people. Matar was swiftly arrested by a State Trooper present at the scene and Rushdie was airlifted to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The attack resulted in injuries to the writer’s organs, including one of his eyes, which media outlets have reported he could potentially lose. Rushdie suffered three injuries to the neck, four injuries to the stomach, an injury to one of his thighs and chest, as well as an injury to his right eye.

After having surgery, he was put on a ventilator, which he was taken off the following day. Rushdie is said to be making a recovery and is already back to cracking jokes.

Interviewer, Henry Reece, who had once called Rushdie "one of the great defenders of freedom of speech and freedom of creative writing," was also injured in the attack.

Hadi Matar's parents emigrated to the United States from Yaroun, Lebanon and Hadi was born in the U.S. After he was named as a suspect, reporters looked into the family’s background and visited their home village of Yaroun where the Hezbollah flag was waving and framed portraits of Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei and Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini were in abundance. Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shia Islamist militant group and political party also known as "Party of God". The journalists were made to leave the village.

Hadi Matar had allegedly expressed extremist views on his social media accounts as well as support for the Iranian government and the attack on Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is thought to be a premeditated attack that the 24 year old planned well in advance, which included the purchase of an advance pass to the public lecture at the Chautauqua Institution.

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