How the brutal attack on writer Salman Rushdie unfolded

Mumbai-born author Salman Rushdie has been a marked man ever since he wrote satanic verses in 1988.

Why Fatwa?

In 1988, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or death sentence, against Rushdie and placed a $1.5 million bounty on the novelist’s head.

His novel, satanic verses, had been criticized for its depiction of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Muslims were burning the book in the streets of Britain. India and South Africa have banned it. There were riots in Islamabad, Pakistan and Kashmir.

Several people were killed in anti-Rushdie riots in India, and in Iran, the British embassy in the capital, Tehran, was stoned.

In 1991 a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death, while a few months later an Italian translator was also stabbed and the book’s Norwegian editor, William Nygaard, was shot – but both survived.

According to the author’s memoir, Joseph Anthonya BBC the reporter reportedly called him the day the Ayatollah delivered the fatwa, asking him, “How do you feel knowing that you have just been sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini?”

“It doesn’t feel good,” Rushdie replied laconically.

Rushdie suffered years of Islamist death threats after writing satanic verses. They finally caught up to him.

How did the attack unfold?

Journalist Joshua Goodman traveled with his family to the Chautauqua facility in western New York for a peaceful week away from the news. Instead, the news found him.

Goodman, a Associated Press Latin America correspondent based in Miami, was attending a talk by author Salman Rushdie on Friday when Rushdie was stabbed onstage.

Rushdie is treated after being attacked during a conference, Friday August 12 | PA

The reporter saw the assailant confront Rushdie on stage at the Chautauqua facility and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as he was introduced. The author was pushed or fell to the ground and the man was arrested.

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 were to discuss the United States as a haven for exiled writers and other artists.

No motives or charges have yet been confirmed by police, who are in the process of obtaining search warrants to examine a backpack and electronic devices found at the center.

Bloodstains mark a screen as Rushdie, behind the screen, is treated after being attacked

Bloodstains mark a screen as Rushdie, behind a screen, is treated after being attacked | PA

Police told a news conference that staff and members of the public rushed the attacker and took him to the ground, and he was later arrested. A doctor in the audience gave Rushdie first aid.

Linda Abrams, a spectator from the city of Buffalo, recounted The New York Times that the assailant continued to try to attack Rushdie after he was subdued.

“It took about five men to pull him away and he was still stabbing,” Abrams said. “He was just furious, furious. Like intensely strong and just fast.”

What is Rushdie’s condition now?

Rushdie’s agent said “the news is not good.” He is now on a ventilator and unable to speak, Andrew Wylie said in a statement, adding that the author, 75, may lose an eye.

Rushdie is carried on a stretcher to a helicopter to be transported to hospital after being attacked

Rushdie is carried on a stretcher to a helicopter to be transported to hospital after being attacked | PA

A bloodied Rushdie, 75, was airlifted to hospital and underwent surgery. His agent, Andrew Wylie, said the writer was on a ventilator on Friday night, with a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm and an eye he was at risk of losing.

Who is the aggressor?

Police have identified the assailant as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey. He was arrested at the scene and awaiting arraignment. Matar was born a decade later satanic verses has been published. The motive for the attack was unclear, State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said.

Law enforcement officers detain Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, outside the Chautauqua facility on Friday, shortly after the attack

Law enforcement officers arrest Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, outside the Chautauqua facility on Friday, shortly after the attack | PA

On his social media accounts, Matar expressed views favorable to the cause of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Investigators reportedly found footage of Iranian commander Qassem Solemani, who was assassinated in 2020, in a cellphone messaging app owned by Matar.

Striker Hadi Matar, left, is escorted off the stage as people tend to Rushdie, center right

Striker Hadi Matar, left, is escorted off stage as people tend to Rushdie, center right | PA

However, no direct link between Matar and the IRGC has been established so far. Police said they believed Matar was “working alone”.

How did Iran react?

Iranians reacted with praise and concern on Saturday to the attack on Rushdie, the target of a decades-old fatwa by the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini calling for his death.

Iran’s theocratic government and its state media attributed no motive to the attack.

The front pages of the August 13 edition of the Iranian newspapers, Vatan-e Emrooz, front, with a headline in Farsi:

The front pages of the August 13 edition of the Iranian newspapers, Vatan-e Emrooz, front, with a headline in Farsi: “Knife in the neck of Salman Rushdie,” and Hamshahri, back, with the headline: “Attack on the ‘author of satanic verses,’ are pictured in Tehran | PA

Early Saturday, Iranian state media reported that a man had been identified as having been killed while attempting to carry out the fatwa. Lebanese national Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh died when a book bomb he had prematurely detonated in a London hotel on August 3, 1989, just over 33 years ago.

Khomeini, in poor health during the last year of his life after the 1980s Iran-Iraq War stalemate that decimated the country’s economy, issued the fatwa on Rushdie in 1989. The Islamic edict is came amid a violent uproar in the Muslim world over the novel. , which some considered to be making blasphemous suggestions about the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

Ayatollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, in the 1980s

Ayatollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, in the 1980s | Wikimedia Commons

“I would like to inform all intrepid Muslims around the world that the author of the book titled ‘Satanic Verses’…as well as the publishers who knew of its contents, are hereby sentenced to death,” Khomeini said in February. 1989, according to Radio Tehran.

He added, “Anyone who is killed doing this will be considered a martyr and will go straight to heaven.”

While fatwas can be revised or revoked, Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Khomeini, has never done so.

“The decision made about Salman Rushdie still stands,” Khamenei said in 1989. “As I said before, this is a bullet for which there is a target. He was shot. day sooner or later the target.

As recently as February 2017, Khamenei replied laconically to this question posed to him: “Is the fatwa on the apostasy of the cursed liar Salman Rushdie still in force? What is the duty of a Muslim in this regard?

Khamenei replied: “The decree is the one that Imam Khomeini issued.

(with AP inputs)