MAYVILLE, N.Y. (Dispatches) — Apostate British writer Salman Rushdie remained hospitalized Saturday after suffering serious injuries in a stabbing attack.
Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday evening. Rushdie was likely to lose the injured eye.
Police identified the suspect as Hadi Matar, 24. He was arrested after the attack at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center where Rushdie was scheduled to speak.
Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun, a border village in southern Lebanon, Mayor Ali Tehfe told The Associated Press.
Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses”, published in 1988, was viewed as blasphemous by many Muslims who saw a character as an insult to Prophet Muhammad (Peace upon Him), among other objections.
Police said the motive for the Friday attack was unclear. Matar was born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” first was published.
An AP reporter witnessed the attacker confront Rushdie on stage and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as the author was being introduced. Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”
Matar, like other visitors, had obtained a pass to enter the Chautauqua Institution’s 750-acre grounds, Michael Hill, the institution’s president, said.
The suspect’s attorney, public defender Nathaniel Barone, said he was still gathering information and declined to comment. Matar’s home was blocked off by authorities.
Rabbi Charles Savenor was among the roughly 2,500 people in the audience for Rushdie’s appearance.
The assailant ran onto the platform “and started pounding on Mr. Rushdie. At first you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it became
abundantly clear in a few seconds that he was being beaten,” Savenor said. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.
After the publication of “The Satanic Verses,” protests erupted across the Muslim world against Rushdie, who was born in India.
A bounty led Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government protection program, which included a round-the-clock armed guard. Rushdie emerged after nine years of seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances.