Author Salman Rushdie, whose writing invited death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked Friday as he was about to deliver a lecture at Chautauqua Institution in western New York.
According to an AP reporter, who witnessed the incident firsthand, said a man stormed the stage and began punching or stabbing Rushdie while the writer was being introduced. The author apparently was pushed or fell on the floor, and the attacker was detained. Rushdie was airlifted to a hospital, news agency AP reported.
Rushdie, an Indian-born novelist, gained prominence with his 1981 novel ‘Midnight’s Children’, which was awarded the Booker Prize — world’s most prestigious literary award — the same year. It was also awarded Best of the Bookers twice as the best novel to have won Booker prize during its first 25 and 40 years, respectively in 1993 and 2008.
However, Rushdie became known around the world with his book ‘The Satanic Verses’ that ran into controversy in the Islamic countries immediately after its publication in 1988 because of its alleged disdainful depiction of Prophet Muhammad. With many Muslims considering the text ‘blasphemous’, the book has been banned in Iran ever since. Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (edict) in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death. A bounty of amount over $3 million has also been in offer for anyone who kills Rushdie.
Even as Iran’s government distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, anti-Rushdie sentiment has continued to prevail in the country.
A semi-official religious organisation — 15 Khordad Foundation — in Iran raised the bounty for Rushdie from an initial $2.8 million to $3.3 million, The Guardian reported.
Dismissing the threat at the time, Rushdie said there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward. While speaking on BBC Radio 4, he had defended his book saying: “It’s not true that this book is a blasphemy against Islam. I doubt very much that Khomeini or anyone else in Iran has read the book or more than selected extracts out of context.”
That year, Rushdie published , ‘Joseph Anton’, a memoir about the fatwa.