Witnesses said author Salman Rushdie, stabbed at an event in New York state on Friday, suffered “10 to 15” blows during the attack. One of them said she initially thought it was “a stuntman”.
Rabbi Charles Savenor, who was present at the presentation at the Chautauqua Institute, about 100 kilometers from the city, said: “This guy ran up to the platform and started hitting Mr. Rushdie.
An AP reporter said the attacker “punched or stabbed Mr Rushdie 10 to 15 times”.
“At first, you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it became clear within seconds that he was beaten,” Mr Savenor told the news agency. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.
A woman from the audience, Kathleen Jones, said the attacker was dressed in black, wearing a black mask. “We thought that maybe it was part of a stunt to show that there is still a lot of controversy surrounding this author. But it became clear in a few seconds” that it wasn’t, she was quoted as saying.
Mr. Rushdie fell to the floor immediately, and the assailant was subdued. A small group of people surrounded the author, holding him down, presumably to pour more blood into his chest, AP reported.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul later said he was still alive and “receiving the care he needed”.
Some 2,500 people in the stands gasped as they witnessed the attack – some rushing towards the sage to help – and were subsequently evacuated.
New York State Police Confirm the stabbing and said Mr Rushdie was taken to an area hospital by helicopter. Police said the attacker was in custody, without sharing further details.
The governor tweeted that “our thoughts are with Salman (Rushdie) and his loved ones,” and promised to help all with the investigation.
Thank you for your quick response @nyspolice & first responders after today’s attack by author Salman Rushdie.
Our thoughts are with Salman and his loved ones following this horrific event. I have directed the State Police to further assist as needed in the investigation.
– Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) August 12, 2022
Social media posts showed people rushing to his aid on stage. An interviewer of Mr. Rushdie suffered minor head injuries in the attack.
The attack happened around 11am local time (8.30pm IST) as Mr Rushdie was being introduced before he spoke. Chautauqua Institute, located in a rural area of New York, is known for its summer lecture series. Mr. Rushdie has spoken there before.
A British citizen of Indian descent, Mr. Rushdie has lived in the US for the past 20 years.
Although a link to the previous threats has yet to be established, Mr. Rushdie was confronted with his murderous calls, particularly in the late 1980s in his book, The verses of Satan, which is said to be blasphemy against Islam. Iran’s top leadership also offered him a reward, although in 1998 the Iranian government said it was not seeking to enforce that ‘fatwa’ or edict.
In 2012, after an Iranian religious outfit again placed a bounty on him, he dismissed the threat, saying there was no “evidence” that people were interested in the reward. That year he published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about living in the midst of threats. This title comes from the pseudonym he used while in hiding.
After controversies over his fourth book, The verses of Satan (1988), he remained unnoticed by the public, mainly living in the United Kingdom under government protection. Despite threats, he produced several novels throughout the 1990s.
His first novel came out in 1975 – then more than a dozen works, including non-fiction – but one of his most famous works is about modern India, Midnight’s Children (1981), for which he won the Booker Prize.
In 2007 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II – given the ceremonial title of ‘Sir’ by Queen Elizabeth II for his literary services.