Salman Rushdie on fan after stabbing, may lose eye

By CAROLYN THOMPSON and HILLEL ITALY, Associated Press

MAYVILLE, NY (AP) — The man accused of carrying out a stabbing attack on “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has pleaded not guilty in a New York court to attempted murder and assault.

A lawyer for Hadi Matar, 24, argued on his behalf at an arraignment hearing. Matar appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white mask. His hands were cuffed in front of him.

Matar is accused of attacking Rushdie on Friday as the perpetrator was featured at a conference at the Chautauqua Institute.

Rushdie suffered serious injuries in the attack and remains hospitalized.

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THIS IS A NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

MAYVILLE, NY – Salman Rushdie remained hospitalized on Saturday after sustaining serious injuries in a stabbing attack that sparked shock and outrage from much of the world, as well as tributes and praise for the award-winning author who, for over 30 years, faced death threats for his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’.

Rushdie, 75, suffered liver damage, severed nerves in an arm and eye, and was on a ventilator and unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie said on Friday evening. Rushdie was in danger of losing the injured eye.

Rushdie’s alleged attacker, Hadi Matar, was due in court on Saturday to face charges of attempted murder and assault, authorities said. A message was left for his lawyer asking for comment.

Authors, activists and government officials have condemned the attack and cited Rushdie’s courage for his longstanding advocacy for free speech despite the risks to his own safety. Rushdie’s fellow author and longtime friend Ian McEwan called him “an inspirational advocate for persecuted writers and journalists around the world”, and actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for a whole generation of artists, especially for many of us in the South Asian diaspora to whom he showed incredible warmth.

Matar, 24, was arrested after the attack on Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center where Rushdie was to speak.

Authorities said Matar is from Fairview, New Jersey. He was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun, a border village in southern Lebanon, village mayor Ali Tehfe told The Associated Press. Flags of the Iran-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah and portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his late predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani are seen across the village. The village also has a small Christian population.

Rushdie, originally from India who has since lived in Britain and the United States, is known for his surreal and satirical style of prose, beginning with his 1981 Booker Prize-winning novel, ‘Midnight’s Children’, in which he sharply criticized India at the time. prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims considering a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad to be blasphemy, among other objections. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iranian Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa or edict in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death.

Khomeini died the same year he issued the fatwa, which remains in effect. Iran’s current supreme leader, Khamenei, has never issued a fatwa himself to revoke the edict, although Iran in recent years has not focused on the writer.

Investigators were trying to determine if the attacker, who was born a decade after the publication of “Satanic Verses”, acted alone.

Journalists in Yaroun, the village from which the suspect’s parents emigrated, were asked to leave on Saturday. Hezbollah spokesmen did not respond to AP questions about Matar and the Rushdie attack.

Iran’s theocratic government and its state media gave no justification for the aggression. In Tehran, some Iranians interviewed by the AP welcomed the attack on a perpetrator who they said tarnished the Islamic faith, while others feared it could further isolate their country.

An AP reporter saw the attacker confront Rushdie on stage and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as the perpetrator was introduced. Dr Martin Haskell, a doctor who was among those rushing to help, described Rushdie’s injuries as “serious but recoverable”.

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, co-founder of an organization that provides residencies for writers facing persecution, was also attacked. Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and discharged from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to discuss the United States as a haven for exiled writers and other artists.

A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to the Rushdie conference, and state police say the trooper made the arrest. But after the attack, some longtime visitors to the center wondered why there was no tight security for the event, given the threats against Rushdie and a bounty on his head offering more than $3million. to whoever killed him.

Matar, like other visitors, had obtained passes to enter the 750-acre grounds of the Chautauqua institution, said Michael Hill, president of the institution.

Rabbi Charles Savenor was among approximately 2,500 people in the audience for Rushdie’s appearance.

The assailant ran onto the platform “and started punching Mr. Rushdie. At first you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it became very clear within seconds that he was beaten,” Savenor said. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.

Another onlooker, Kathleen James, said the attacker was dressed in black, with a black mask.

Amid gasps, onlookers were ushered out of the outdoor amphitheater.

The stabbing reverberated from the quiet town of Chautauqua to the United Nations, which issued a statement expressing horror at UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and stressing that freedom of expression and opinion should not be fought with violence.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday’s attack, which was the subject of an evening newscast on Iranian state television. From the White House, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called the attack “reprehensible” and said the Biden administration wished Rushdie a speedy recovery.

After the publication of “The Satanic Verses”, often violent protests erupted across the Muslim world against Rushdie, who was born in India into a Muslim family and has long identified as a non-believer, once calling himself ” hard-core atheist. .”

At least 45 people were killed in riots over the book, including 12 people in Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai. In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot three times and survived.

Death threats and the bounty drove Rushdie into hiding under a UK government protection scheme, which included a 24-hour armed guard. Rushdie emerged after nine years in solitary confinement and cautiously resumed more of public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism as a whole.

In 2012 Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton”, on the fatwa. The title comes from the alias Rushdie used while in hiding. He said at a conference in New York the same year the memoir came out that terrorism was really the art of fear.

“The only way to defeat it is to decide not to be afraid,” he said.

The Chautauqua Institution, about 89 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, has served for more than a century as a place of reflection and spiritual guidance. Visitors do not go through metal detectors and do not undergo bag checks. Most people leave the doors of their century-old cabins unlocked at night.

The center is known for its summer lecture series, where Rushdie has previously spoken.

During a night vigil, a few hundred residents and visitors gathered for prayer, music and a long moment of silence.

“Hate cannot win,” one man shouted.

Italy reported from New York. Associated Press reporter Kareem Chehayeb contributed reporting from Beirut.

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