NEW YORK (AP) — Salman Rushdie remained hospitalised Saturday after suffering serious injuries in a stabbing attack, which was met with shock and outrage from much of the world, along with tributes and praise for the award-winning author who for more than 30 years has faced death threats for his novel “The Satanic Verses.”
Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator and unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday evening. Rushdie was likely to lose the injured eye.
Rushdie’s alleged attacker, Hadi Matar, was due in court on Saturday to face attempted murder and assault charges, authorities said. A message was left with his lawyer seeking comment.
Authors, activists and government officials condemned the attack and cited Rushdie’s courage for his longtime advocacy of free speech despite the risks to his own safety. Rushdie’s fellow author and longtime friend Ian McEwan called him “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” and the actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora toward whom he’s shown incredible warmth.”
Matar, 24, was arrested after the attack at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center where Rushdie was scheduled to speak.
Authorities said Matar is from Fairview, New Jersey. He was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun, a border village in southern Lebanon, the mayor of the village, Ali Tehfe, told The Associated Press. Flags of Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah and portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his late predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and slain Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani are visible across the village. The village also boasts a small Christian population.
Rushdie, a native of India who has since lived in Britain and the US, is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning novel from 1981, “Midnight’s Children,” in which he sharply criticised India’s then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims regarding as blasphemy a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.
Investigators were working to determine whether the assailant, born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” was published, acted alone.