Salman Rushdie is stabbed in the neck during a conference in New York

NEW YORK, Aug 12 (Reuters) – Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born novelist who spent years in hiding after Iran urged Muslims to kill him over his writing, was stabbed in the neck on scene at a conference in New York state on Friday and airlifted to hospital, police said.

He was alive and operated, according to his literary agent, Andrew Wylie.

A man rushed onto the stage at the Chautauqua institution and attacked Rushdie, 75, as he was shown to give a talk on artistic freedom to an audience of hundreds, eyewitnesses said . A New York State Police trooper present at the event arrested the assailant, police said.

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“A man jumped onto the scene from who knows where and started what looked like punching him in the chest, repeatedly punching him in the chest and neck,” said Bradley Fisher, who was in the audience. “People were screaming, crying and gasping.”

Rushdie, author of ‘The Satanic Verses’, fell to the ground when the man attacked him, and was then surrounded by a small group of people who held his legs, apparently to send more blood into the body. upper body, while the attacker was restrained, according to another witness attending the conference.

Henry Reese, the event’s moderator, suffered minor head injuries, police said. The police statement did not give a motive for the attack and it was unclear what type of weapon was used.

Rushdie, who was born into a Kashmiri Muslim family in Bombay, now known as Mumbai, before moving to the UK, has faced death threats for his fourth novel, ‘The Satanic Verses’, which , according to some Muslims, contained blasphemous passages. The novel was banned in many countries with large Muslim populations when it was published in 1988.

A year later, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme leader, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling on Muslims to kill the novelist and anyone involved in his publication for blasphemy.

Rushdie, who called her novel “rather sweet”, went into hiding for many years. Hitoshi Igarashi, the novel’s Japanese translator, was assassinated in 1991. The Iranian government declared in 1998 that it would no longer support the fatwa, and Rushdie has lived relatively openly in recent years.

Iranian organizations, including some affiliated with the government, collected a multi-million dollar bounty for Rushdie’s murder. And Khomeini’s successor as supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in 2017 the fatwa was still there.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency and other outlets donated money that year to raise the bounty by more than $600,000. Fars called Rushdie an apostate who “insulted the prophet” in his report on Friday’s attack.

Rushdie published a memoir in 2012 about his life under the fatwa called “Joseph Anton”, the pseudonym he used under the protection of British police. Her second novel, “Midnight’s Children”, won the Booker Prize. Her new novel “Victory City” is due out in February.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was appalled that Rushdie was ‘stabbed while exercising a right we should never stop defending’.

Rushdie was present at the event to participate in a discussion about the United States serving as a haven for exiled writers and artists and “as a home for freedom of creative expression,” according to the institution’s website.

There were no obvious security checks at the institution of Chautauqua, a landmark founded in the 19th century in the small lakeside town of the same name, with staff simply checking people’s entrance tickets, a said the eyewitness who was in the audience.

“I felt like we needed more protection there because Salman Rushdie is not a regular writer,” said Anour Rahmani, an Algerian writer and human rights activist who was also in the audience. “He’s a writer with a fatwa against him.”

The institution declined to comment when asked about security measures.

Rushdie became a US citizen in 2016 and lives in New York.

He has been a fierce critic of religion across the spectrum. He criticized oppression and violence in his native India, including under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata party.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not respond to a request for comment.

PEN America, a free speech group of which Rushdie is former president, said he was “in shock and horror” at what he called an unprecedented attack on a writer in the USA. Read more

“Salman Rushdie was targeted for his lyrics for decades but never flinched or wavered,” PEN chief executive Suzanne Nossel said in the statement. Earlier that morning, Rushdie had emailed her to help relocate Ukrainian writers seeking refuge, she said.

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Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington, Jonathan Allen, Randi Love and Tyler Clifford in New York and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols and Andrew Hay Editing by Alistair Bell

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