Shock and dismay over Salman Rushdie attack

Famed ‘Satanic Verses’ author recovering in Pennsylvania hospital

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The literary world and government officials are in shock following the stabbing attack on renowned author Salman Rushdie on Friday morning outside Buffalo, New York, which has left him recovering in a Pennsylvania hospital.

According to published reports, the novelist may lose an eye, suffered wounds to his neck and liver and nerves in his arms.

New York State Police are investigating the attack on Rushdie prior to a speaking event Friday morning at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York. Soon after the attack, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation arrested Hadi Matar, 24 of Fairview, New Jersey, for attempted murder and assault. Matar was processed at State Police Jamestown and transported to Chautauqua County Jail. He is being arraigned in centralized arraignment Saturday.

At about 10:47 a.m., a male suspect later identified as Matar ran up onto the stage and attacked Rushdie, 75, according to state police. The author of “The Satanic Verses” and many other award-winning books suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck and chest and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital. The moderator at the event Ralph Henry Reese, 73, suffered a minor head injury.

Staff members of the Chautauqua Institution and guests went on stage to assist in holding down the suspect. A state trooper assigned to the event was next to the stage and took the suspect into custody. The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office assisted at the scene shortly after. The Chautauqua County Deputy had an explosive detection K9 that assisted in clearing a bag the suspect had.

Rushdie holds a special place in the history of <it>The Riverdale Press<it> and modern journalism. In 1989, the newspaper’s office was firebombed by a terrorist only days after the paper published an editorial supporting bookstores that sold Rushdie’s 1988 “Satanic Verses” book. The editorial criticized national chain bookstores for bowing to a death threat by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini to the novelist and anyone selling his book. The editorial also praised PaperbacksPlus, a local store, for continuing to sell the book.

In an act of defiance, every community newspaper in New York state and dozens around the country reprinted <it>The Press<it> editorial. U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan had it printed in the Congressional Record.

Nine years later, co-publisher Bernard Stein won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing on politics and other issues, including an editorial with the headline “Why Rushdie matters.”

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America — a literature and human rights organization that has been around for more than 100 years — was upset at the news.

“PEN America is reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former President and stalwart ally, Salman Rushdie, who was reportedly stabbed multiple times while on stage speaking at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York,” she said. “We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil.

“ Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning, Salman had emailed me to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge from the grave perils they face.  Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was speaking at an anti-gun violence event at the time of the stabbing, issued the following statement: “It is heartbreaking to learn that within the last hour, a prominent individual, Salman Rushdie, was attacked on a stage in Western New York, just before he was about to give a speech. He is alive.

“He 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... We are undeterred in our commitment to make sure that we call it out, we condemn what happened, we condemn all violence, and we want people to feel that freedom to speak and to write truth. And I'll continue to protect that every single day as your governor