Salman Rushdie — the author of the novel, “The Satanic Verses,” which has drawn death threats from Iranian leaders — was attacked and stabbed before his lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in New York on Friday.
Per CNN, the suspect was identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from Fairview, New Jersey. According to state police reports, Matar had jumped the stage, and stabbed Rushdie in the neck and abdomen, respectively, at least once. The suspect was taken into custody, while the author was rushed to a hospital.
A witness recalled details of the attack to the outlet, saying that the suspect had approached the author while “making a stabbing motion with his hand repeatedly.”
Governor Kathy Hochul gave a statement to reporters, “Here is an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power.”
“Someone who has been out there unafraid, despite the threats that have followed him his entire adult life it seems,” the governor said of the novelist.
According to AP, at the time of the release of “The Satanic Verses” in 1988, the novel was considered blasphemous by many Muslims, who claimed a written character was an insult to the Prophet Muhammad.
Violent protests erupted against Rushdie at the time, with Iran banning the book and the country’s leader, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issuing a 1989 fatwa, or religious legal pronouncement, that called for his assassination. Khomeini died the same year and Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei withdrew the edict.
Per AP, “at least 45 people were killed in riots over the book, including 12 people in Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai.”
Other victims, whose death or assaults were connected to outrage over the book, include a Japanese translator of the novel, who was stabbed to death in 1991, and an Italian translator who survived an attack with a knife; a Norwegian publisher was shot three times and survived in 1993.
While speaking in New York back in 2012, Rushdie said terrorism draws power from fear.
“The only way you can defeat it is by deciding not to be afraid,” he said.