On Friday, the literary and art world was left shocked with the news of Salman Rushdie being attacked brutally onstage with a knife. Initial reports said Rushdie was taken to a trauma hospital in a helicopter in an unknown state. The author, reportedly, immediately went into surgery and was stabbed in the neck and abdomen.
Currently, on a ventilator at the UPMC Hamot Surgery Center in Erie, Pennsylvania, Rushdie has suffered damage to his liver and severed nerves in an arm, his agent said. The New York Times quoted his agent Andrew Wylie informing via email, "The news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged."
Event moderator Henry Reese and the interviewee suffered a head injury in the attack. People and security rushed to aid the author after the onstage attack but by then significant damage had been done. Rushdie was about to give his speech at a literary event at the Chautauqua Institution news the New York City.
The attacker, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, is a British citizen of Indian origin, living in the United States for the last 20 years. He is from Fairview, New Jersey. While the criminal past and records of Matar are yet to be ascertained, his social media past shows him to be drawn to Shia extremism. Salman Rushdie, a well-known and controversial author, has also faced threats in the past over his book The Satanic Verses, published in 1988.
Could a 24-year-old attack be over a book published 30 years ago?
One of the most controversial books in recent literary history, The Satanic Verses, was first published thirty years ago and almost immediately sparked angry and violent demonstrations in several parts of the world. Iran's leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie. Following the fatwa, Rushdie, originally born to Muslim parents in India, but now a British citizen living in the UK, went into protective hiding for the most part of the decade afterwards. The book, goes into the heart of core Muslim beliefs, and challenges and even mocks at some of them through characters and dream sequences.
Controversy's favourite author
A few social media posts and murmurs pointed out how it was both unfortunate, but not surprising that Rushdie was brutally attacked. The writer spent the better part of his life moving between safe houses and acquiring pseudonyms. Around five years back, a bounty of a whopping $2.8million was put on his head, following which he was immediately granted police protection by the British government.
India was the first, of a total of thirteen countries with large Muslim communities, to ban the book in 1988. Violent protests erupted in several parts of the world where effigies of Rushdie and copies of The Satanic Verses were burnt.
However, with the novel still being published and available in the United States, American Cultural Center in Islamabad was attacked, where six protestors were killed. This was only the first of the casualties to be caused because of a book.
American Express office, reportedly, was also ransacked in the same attack. After Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a Fatwa against Rushdie, Iran and UK even break diplomatic relations with each other. Rushdie's translators were the next in line, with his Japanese translator killed in 1991. Two years later, around 37 people were killed in a hotel arson fire targeted at his Turkish translator. In January 2012, Rushdie was scheduled to appear at the Jaipur Literature Festival, an appearance that was cancelled due to possible threats to his life.