Sir Salman Rushdie, who wrote the controversial novel The Satanic Verses, was attacked at the Chautauqua Institution in New York state today, with the knifeman in police custody
Author Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed on stage in front of a packed crowd at an event in New York.
The Satanic Verses novelist has been airlifted to hospital after he was knifed in the neck, with his current condition is unknown.
The Chautauqua Institution, where Mr Rushdie was due to speak, was evacuated following the attack.
Police said a man ran on stage and set upon Sir Salman and his interviewer.
The 75-year-old was previously slapped with a fatwa ordering the author’s execution by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini after the publication of his controversial book in 1988.
Major Eugene J Staniszewski, of the New York State Police, said: “On August 12 2022 at about 11am a male suspect ran up onto 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 interviewer suffered a minor head injury. A State Trooper assigned to the event immediately took the suspect into custody.”
Witnesses said they saw Sir Salman bleeding heavily with blood sent across the stage, his chair and a nearby backdrop.
“The amphitheater is evacuated. The attacker is in custody.
“Please hold Mr. Rushdie and all of the Institution in prayer. We are all incredibly traumatized.”
One person tweeted: “Salmon Rushdie stabbed at Chautauqua. He’s on the stage being treated. Before his scheduled speech.”
Another Twitter user said: “Salmon Rushdie was just stabbed multiple times on stage at Chautauqua Institution (pic via friend there)”
Fellow novelist Stephen King tweeted: “I hope Salman Rushdie is okay.”
Meanwhile, JK Rowling wrote: “Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok.”
The charitable group Humanists UK, which Sir Salman is a patron of, tweeted: “Shocked to hear about the attack on our patron Salman Rushdie.
“Details at this moment are scarce. But given that he has been a high-profile advocate for freedom of expression, and someone who has lived under death threats for years, we are concerned this could be the motivation.”
Ruth Smeeth, head of Index Censorship, tweeted: “There are no words to describe this horror Index Censorship has a long relationship with Salman Rushdie.
“He is a brave man who will not be silenced. Our thoughts and prayers for a positive outcome are with him and his family.”
Sir Salman was due to speak about how America is a “home for freedom of creative expression” during his lecture at the Chautauqua Institution today.
An advert for the event on the institution’s website states: “Rushdie returns to Chautauqua Institution for a special Chautauqua Lecture Series event exploring the Week Seven theme of ‘More than Shelter’, joined by Henry Reese, co-founder of the Pittsburgh nonprofit City of Asylum — the largest residency program in the world for writers living in exile under threat of persecution — for a discussion of the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression.”
A religious foundation in Iran previously offered a $3million reward for the killing of Sir Salman.
Iran put out the hit on Sir Salman amid outrage over his book The Satanic Verses.
Many Muslims were offended by the novel and saw it as disparaging their religion.
The book was inspired by the life of the prophet Muhammad, however it was seen as blasphemous in some countries.
Demonstrations were held across the world and the text was banned in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Indonesia, Thailand and elsewhere.
Demonstrators in Bradford even copies of the book, sparking outrage among freedom of speech advocates.
The Booker Prize winner has been under a fatwa since 1989 ( Image: Twitter)
The Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses was stabbed to death in July 1991.
The killing took place less than two weeks after the Italian translator of the book was also knifed, although he survived.
In 1998, Iran’s pro-reform government of President Mohammad Khatami distanced itself from the fatwa, saying the threat against Sir Salman was over after he had lived in hiding for nine years.
Although the Iranian regime stopped backing the fatwa, it was never officially lifted.
Sir Salman was knighted by the Queen for his services to literature in 2008.
Speaking after receiving his knighthood, he said: “I think the thing you hope to do as a writer is leave behind a shelf of interesting books and it’s great just to have that work recognised.”