Salman Rushdie stabbed on stage during a conference in the United States

Undergoing emergency surgery after being stabbed, Salman Rushdie is on a ventilator and cannot speak. “The news is not good. Salman will likely lose an eye; the nerves in his arm have been severed; his liver has been stabbed and damaged,” his agent Andrew Wylie told the media Friday night.

Salman Rushdie was about to give a lecture in Chautauqua, in western New York, when a man attacked him with a knife. British author Salman Rushdie was stabbed Friday, Chautauqua County police confirmed to AFP.

The interviewer who accompanied him on stage was slightly injured in the head. The alleged attacker was arrested. The author was transported to hospital by helicopter. Several hundred people were gathered in this conference center, where Rushdie had spoken in the past.

They were evacuated from the room. “The most terrible event has just happened at the Chautauqua Institution – Salman Rushdie was attacked on stage. The amphitheater is evacuated,” wrote a witness on social networks. Video footage posted on social media shows audience members at an auditorium rushing to the stage to help someone seen on the ground.

A bounty on his head
By publishing the controversial book The Satanic Verses, Rushdie became the target of a fatwa issued by Iranian Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini in 1989. A bounty of 3 million dollars was then offered to anyone who killed the writer.

Yet the author, born in 1947 in Bombay, India, two months before its independence from the British Empire, is trying not to be reduced to the scandal caused by the publication of this book, which had set the Muslim world ablaze and led in 1989 to a “fatwa” calling for his assassination.

“My problem is that people continue to perceive me through the sole prism of the fatwa,” said a few years ago this free-thinker who wants to be a writer, not a symbol. Forced to live in hiding and under police protection, going from cache to cache, he called himself Joseph Anton, in homage to his favorite authors, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. He has to face an immense loneliness, increased by the rupture with his wife, the American novelist Marianne Wiggins, to whom “The verses…” are dedicated.

Settled in New York for several years, Salman Rushdie – arched eyebrows, heavy eyelids, bald head, glasses and beard – had resumed a more or less normal life while continuing to defend, in his books, satire and irreverence.

Multiple reactions
“For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. Hate and barbarism have just struck him, cowardly,” said the French head of state on Twitter, saying that “his fight is ours, universal.”

“It is a symbol of resistance to Islamist totalitarianism that has been attacked,” reacted on Twitter the president of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella. “This attack proves that Islamists will never disarm,” agreed the mayor of Perpignan Louis Aliot, candidate for the head of the National Rally.

“The religious fanatics who launched a fatwa against him no doubt bear responsibility,” vilified the Insoumis deputy Alexis Corbière. “Stabbed by Islamist hatred,” blasted Communist leader Fabien Roussel. Boris Vallaud, leader of the Socialist deputies condemned a “serious and intolerable” attack.

“It is the freedom that is attacked,” blasted the president of the Green group in the Assembly Julien Bayou, speaking of a “despicable fatwa. For the former right-wing presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse, Salman Rushdie “embodies freedom of expression in the face of Islamic totalitarianism.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled” by the attack on his fellow countryman, the writer Salman Rushdie, in the United States on Friday.

I am “appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right that we should never stop defending,” Johnson said in a tweet, referring to freedom of expression. “My thoughts are with his loved ones. We all hope he’s okay,” he added.