Salman Rushdie stabbed

People rushed to assist the author after the attack, with the attacker being restrained by witnesses. The motive for the stabbing is currently unknown
Sir Salman Rushdie was attacked onstage at an event in western New York state and stabbed in the neck on Friday morning, police have confirmed.

Rushdie, the author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked on Friday morning as he was about to give a lecture in western New York.

He was taken into surgery on Friday afternoon. Andrew Wylie, a spokesperson for Rushdie, said in an emailed statement: "Salman is in surgery," but did not have further details to share.

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie, 75, was attacked by a Hadi Matar, pictured with Sheriff's deputies, who approached him from behind before stabbing him multiple times. The suspect was quickly pinned to the floor before being arrested
Authorities later identified the man suspected of stabbing Rushdie as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey.

An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin assaulting Rushdie as he was being introduced. The author was taken or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained and taken into custody.

A statement from New York state police released about an hour after the incident said that Rushdie suffered "an apparent stab wound to the neck".

He was promptly transported by helicopter to a hospital in the area, though his condition on Friday afternoon was "not yet known".

Photos taken by an Associated Press reporter show Rushdie lying on his back, with a first responder crouched over him. The author's legs were being held up above his chest, presumably to keep blood flowing to the heart.

Rushdie's interviewer was also attacked and suffered a minor head injury, police said.

The assault happened shortly before 11am at the Chautauqua Institution near Erie in western New York state close to Lake Erie, about 400 miles north-west of New York City.

Rushdie, author of 14 novels, had been invited to talk about the importance of the US offering asylum for writers and other artists in exile.

Eyewitness reports said that a man wearing a black mask rushed onstage and began to attack Rushdie as he was sitting on the stage. Paula Voell, a retired journalist, told the Buffalo News that it was quickly apparent that an assault had taken place.

"We saw the man race a few steps across the stage and there was horror - the whole audience reacted, and probably 15 spectators raced on to the stage to try to attend to him, or so it seemed," she said.

Phone footage captured moments after the attack shows audience members scrambling on to the stage to help. Gasps are heard around the auditorium as members of the public immediately evacuate the space.

Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous.

A year later, Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie's death.

A bounty of more than $3m has also been offered for anyone who kills Rushdie.

Iran's government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini's decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingered.

In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8m to $3.3m.

The New York Post, citing law enforcement sources, described the suspect Matar as being sympathetic toward the Iranian government.

Comment: One could be forgiven for thinking that the man is either simply insane, or a patsy of some kind, rather than someone with any allegiance to any government or of having reasonable intent on claiming this bounty.

Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was "no evidence" of people being interested in the reward.

That year, Rushdie published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about the fatwa.

A statement from New York state police said: "On August 12, 2022, at about 11am, a male suspect ran up on to the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer. Rushdie suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck, and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital. His condition is not yet known."

The statement continued: "The interviewer suffered a minor head injury. A state trooper assigned to the event immediately took the suspect into custody. The Chautauqua county sheriff's office assisted at the scene. More information will be released when it is available."

Journalists, writers and celebrities reacted with shock and concern. Horror novelist Stephen King tweeted: "I hope Salman Rushdie is okay."

Indian author and political and environmental activist Arundhati Roy told the Guardian: "I am shocked and saddened beyond measure. Nothing can justify this attack."

Close friend Nigella Lawson, the English food writer and celebrity television cook, wrote: "Such shocking news of Salman Rushdie having been stabbed. This is horrific. Am distraught. Please, please let him be ok."

Speaking to the Guardian, Japanese-born English novelist Kazuo Ishiguro said: "He's been incredibly brave through all these years, continuously putting himself on the line for the right to think and speak freely, despite the dangers that never went away. We're hoping and hoping he'll pull through."

In the US, where Rushdie lives, the New York state governor, Kathy Hochul, told a press conference that a state police officer saved Rushdie's life and that of the moderator.

She added: "He is alive, he has been airlifted to safety. But here is an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power, someone who's been out there unafraid, despite the threats that have followed him his entire adult life."

Jeremy Genovese, 68, from Beachwood, Ohio, a retired academic from Cleveland State University, told the Press Association news agency he arrived at the amphitheatre as it was being evacuated and that people were "streaming out".

He said: "People were in shock, many people in tears. Chautauqua has always prided itself as a place where people can engage in civil dialogue.

"The amphitheatre is a large outdoor venue where people have given lectures since the late 1800s. You need a pass to access the grounds but it is not too difficult get in.

Rushdie was previously president of PEN America, which celebrates free expression and speech, and its chief executive, Suzanne Nossel, was among those reacting to the attack.

She said: "PEN America is reeling from shock and horror ... Our thoughts and passions now lie with our dauntless Salman, wishing him a full and speedy recovery. We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced."

Rushdie found fame with Midnight's Children, about the birth of India, which won the Booker prize in 1981.

The author lived in hiding for many years in London under a British government protection programme after Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his execution over The Satanic Verses.

Finally, in 1998, the Iranian government withdrew its support for the death sentence.

He was knighted in 2008.