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Salman Rushdie on a ventilator, likely to lose an eye after on-stage attack


Author Salman Rushdie is likely to lose one of his eyes and is currently on a ventilator after he was attacked on stage at a literary event in upstate New York on Friday, a report said.

“The news is not good,” the 75-year-old writer’s agent, Andrew Wylie, told The New York Times.

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

Rushdie, who is still unable to speak, was attacked by a lone man while speaking at an event at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY, about 55 miles south of Buffalo.


He was scheduled to speak about the United States as a place for exiled authors “as a home for freedom of expression,” according to the institute. After the stabbing, he was transported by helicopter to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he underwent surgery.

A witness who was in the audience told The Post that Rushdie tried to run off the stage, and the two men scuffled before audience members rushed onstage to subdue the attacker.

Approximately 2,500 people were in the audience at the time.

Rushdie’s alleged attacker, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested at the scene by a state trooper who was assigned to the lecture.

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New Jersey native Hadi Matar was arrested by New York state police after the attack.
Author Salman Rushdie is still unable to speak as he recovers from Friday's attack, his agent said.
Author Salman Rushdie is still unable to speak as he recovers from Friday’s attack, his agent said.
Police presence around the home of Hadi Matar
Police presence around the home of Hadi Matar.
Christopher Sadowski

A State Police spokesman said Matar’s possible motives were under investigation.

But law-enforcement sources told The Post that Matar was sympathetic to the Iranian government, which in 1989 issued a fatwa, or religious edict, under then-their leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini calling for Rushdie’s death over “The Satanic Verses.”

An initial investigation suggested Matar had posted on social media about his support of Iran and its Revolutionary Guard and in favor of Shia extremism more broadly, law-enforcement sources told The Post.

Salman Rushdie
Rushdie had been scheduled to speak about the United States as a place for exiled authors “as a home for freedom of expression.”
Getty Images

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sulliving denounced the “appalling” attack in a statement early Saturday morning.

“All of us in the Biden-Harris administration are praying for his speedy recovery,” the statement said. “We are thankful to good citizens and first responders for helping Mr. Rushdie so quickly after the attack and to law enforcement for its swift and effective work, which is ongoing.”

Matar also attacked 73-year-old event moderator Henry Reese. He suffered injuries to his face and was treated and released from a local hospital, cops said.

Like other visitors, Matar had obtained a pass to enter the institution’s 750-acre grounds, President Michael Hill told the Associated Press. His backpack was screened by a sheriff’s deputy and K-9 assigned to the event, according to the Buffalo News.

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Kienna Brown, a waitress who works on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution said the attacker stayed at the Athenaeum Hotel overnight.

“They had to close down employee parking and evacuate to search his room. They weren’t allowing guests in and out [of the hotel],” Brown told The Post.

“A lot of people were traumatized by the events today. It’s very sad,” she said.

Salman Rushdie holding his book.
24-year-old Hadi Matar house in New Jersey was searched following the attack on Rushdie.

Steve Mackey, a server at Heirloom restaurant in Chautauqua said that his coworkers served Matar the night before the attack.

“There was just little interaction. There was shock that they served this guy and the next day he’s on world news,” he said.

Matar’s New Jersey home was swarmed with law enforcement after the stabbing. His attorney, public defender Nathaniel Barone, has declined to comment.

Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”

Witness Kathleen James, said Matar was clad in black clothing and wore a black mask when he rushed the stage.

“We thought perhaps it was part of a stunt to show that there’s still a lot of controversy around this author. But it became evident in a few seconds” that it wasn’t, she told the Associated Press.

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Rushdie holding his book.
Rushdie has had a fatwa out against him since the late 1980s.
AFP via Getty Images

Rushdie’s controversial 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” prompted Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death over what he claimed were blasphemous references to Islam.

A $3 million bounty was placed on his head for anyone who kills him.

Rushdie, an outspoken proponent for freedom of speech and critic of religious extremism, was born into a Muslim family in Mumbai, India.

Rushdie speaking on mic at a conference.
After years in hiding and being protected by the British government, in 2002, Rushdie slowly began making appearances again.
Getty Images

He was forced to live in hiding under the protection of the British government from 1989 until 2002. After years of round-the-clock security, he gradually returned to the public sphere.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008, and is widely regarded as one of the UK’s greatest living writers.

“We ask for your prayers for Salman Rushdie and Henry Reese, and patience as we fully focus on coordinating and cooperating with police officials following a tragic incident at the Amphitheater today,” the Chautauqua Institution said in a statement on its website. “All institution programs are canceled for the remainder of the day.”

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