Writer Salman Rushdie in 2019 at the First Congregational Church in Oakland, California. (Sunita Sohrabji photo)

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A man accused of stabbing writer Salman Rushdie at least 10 times was arraigned Aug. 13 morning and charged with attempted murder and assault, both felony offenses. He was remanded into custody and is being held in jail without bail.

Rushdie, who has had a $3.3 million bounty on his head for the past 33 years, was attacked onstage Aug. 12 morning at the the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York.

The author of The Satanic Verses had multiple stab wounds, including one to the right side of his neck. He was lying in a pool of blood. But witnesses at the scende reported that Rushdie appeared to be alive, and seemed to have a pulse. Several audience members intervened and tried to hold back the attacker, who continued to repeatedly assault Rushdie.

The acclaimed writer was transported by medical helicopter to the UPMC Hamot Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Serious Injuries

Rushdie’s agent Andrew Wylie said Aug. 12 evening that the news was “not good.” He noted that Rushdie is on a ventilator, and cannot speak.

“Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” said Wylie.

Attacker Arrested

His attacker was later identified by New York State Police as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey. A State Trooper assigned the event where Rushdie was scheduled to speak, arrested the attacker at the site.

Matar pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. He has been charged with 2nd degree attempted murder, and 2nd degree assault. The suspect is being held at Chautaqua County Jail in New York. Several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are jointly conducting an investigation to determine Matar’s motive.

The Satanic Verses, published in 1988, was considered blasphemous by some Muslims for its depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. The Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Rushdie in 1989; the author spent several years in hiding.

Iran has since distanced itself from the fatwa, but it nonetheless remains, with a $3.3 million bounty.

Ukranian Writers

PEN America immediately issued a statement. “(We are) reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former President and stalwart ally, Salman Rushdie,” wrote Suzanne Nossel, CEO of Pen America. “We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil.”

Salman Rushdie onstage in San Francisco in 2017 with broadcast journalist Michael Krasny. (Sunita Sohrabji photo)

Nossel wrote that just hours before the attack, Rushdie had written to her to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge. “Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered. He has devoted tireless energy to assisting others.”

“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,” wrote Nossel.

This is a developing story. India Currents will post updates as they occur.

Sunita Sohrabji

Sunita Sohrabji is the Managing Editor of India Currents. She is also the Health Editor at Ethnic Media Services.