What we know about the knife attack on the writer

The writer, who has been the target of a fatwa since 1989, was attacked with a knife Thursday in upstate New York as he was about to hold a conference. His health condition remains “unknown”, but the alleged attacker has been arrested.

British writer Salman Rushdie his book Satanic Verses Making him the target of a fatwa in the late 1980s, he was stabbed in the neck on Friday by a man at a convention in western New York. At this point, Governor Cathy Hochhol said the British writer is “alive,” but the condition of the 75-year-old is “unknown,” according to the New York State Police.

In February 1989, a fatwa was issued calling for the killing of Iranian writer Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for publishing his controversial book. Satanic Verses. The writings were considered blasphemous and had set the Islamic world on fire at the time. Then the book was banned in twenty countries.

The writer is in the hospital “his unknown condition”.

Today, Friday, Salman Rushdie appeared on stage when he was attacked from behind by a man who stabbed him “repeatedly” in his “neck and stomach,” according to information provided by the New York State Police during a press conference on Friday. Salman Rushdie was about to speak at a conference, as he used to give for years. US police said he was taken to hospital by helicopter. His state of health is not yet known, but in the evening his agent indicated that he was undergoing surgery.

Salman Rushdie on a stretcher before being taken by helicopter on Friday.
Salman Rushdie on a stretcher before being taken by helicopter on Friday. © Twitter / @HoratioGates3 / Reuters

“One of the suspects rushed to the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer. Rushdie sustained an apparent neck injury after being stabbed,” the New York State Police said in a news release.

Attack during a conference at a cultural center in New York

The writer was preparing for a reading session as part of a conference at the Chautauqua Institute, a cultural center located in upstate New York, near Lake Erie that separates the Canadian states. The foundation said in a statement that it was “coordinating with law enforcement and emergency services to respond to the public after today’s attack on Salman Rushdie.”

Witnesses in the amphitheater, including journalists, tweeted that the room had been “evacuated.” Video images posted on social networks show that spectators in the runway rush to the podium to help a person seen on the ground, surrounded by many people.

A second person was hit in the head.

Police said the person who was going to give the floor to the writer sustained minor head injuries.

The suspect is 24 years old

New York State Police say the attacker was immediately arrested and detained. At this point, an investigation was opened and the FBI entrusted, but this person’s motives are still unknown. However, US police said the man, a 24-year-old from New Jersey, had an “entry card to the venue as a participant”.

A loyal defender of freedom of expression

Salman Rushdie, a US citizen for 20 years, has been participating in this type of conference where he has become an icon and advocate for freedom of expression and the fight against religious obscurantism. Very active in politics and social networks, the writer was very present in the media scene and other literary exhibitions.

At that time, this was the second chapter (a few dozen pages out of several hundred) of his book Satanic Verses Which is scandalous. Salman Rushdie depicts scenes there where the vaguely absurd figure of the Prophet Mahound – a reference to the founder of Islam, Muhammad – who has been abused by Satan, spreads belief in gods other than God, before realizing his mistake.

Police protection reduced at his request

So Salman Rushdie had to live in secret and under police protection since February 14, 1989. The writer used to move from bunker to bunker, calling himself Joseph Anton. He settled in New York for a few years, and his police protections have been greatly reduced in recent years, at his request. However, Salman Rushdie has resumed a somewhat normal life while continuing to defend, in his books, sarcasm and disrespect.

If the investigation was just beginning, the US authorities maintain that the security of the event the author was scheduled to attend “was very light”. Witnesses told CNN that there were no physical searches of the public and no metal detectors.

Jane Polant BFMTV journalist

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