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JK Rowling condemns ‘horrifying’ attack on Salman Rushdie

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British author JK Rowling has condemned the ‘horrifying’ attempt on Salman Rushdie’s life in upstate New York after The Satanic Verses novellist was stabbed multiple times by a suspected knifeman with alleged sympathies to Iran’s dictatorship. 

Reacting to the shocking attack last night, the Harry Potter writer – who has been pilloried in public by trans activists ever since she objected to the term ‘people who menstruate’ – said on Twitter: ‘Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok.’

Rowling, 57, also shared tweets from journalists Stephanie Merritt and Hadley Freeman who praised Rushdie’s courage after the Indian-born author, now 75, was forced to go into hiding for a decade when the regime in Tehran issued a fatwa calling for his murder in 1989.

Recalling an event she did with Rushdie two decades ago, Merritt said: ‘God I hope Rushdie’s ok. I interviewed him on stage about 20 years ago. The audience had to come in through airport-type security gates. I remember looking out at this big crowd & feeling suddenly scared: it would only take one. How much courage he must have had all this time.’

And describing an interview with Rushdie last year, Guardian reporter Freeman called the author a ‘truly brave, thoughtful and kind man’. 

She added: ‘I was lucky enough to interview Salman Rushdie last year and we talked a lot about how he refuses to let the constant threats of violence against him define his life’.

Horror writer Stephen King also echoed Rowling’s concern, while  PEN America said it was ‘reeling from shock and horror’ at the attack.

The body’s chief executive Suzanne Nossel said: ‘We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil. Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered.’

Rushdie is on a ventilator and may lose an eye after he was stabbed on stage in New York state. The writer, whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was about to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution, in Chautauqua some 65 miles south-west of Buffalo, when he was stabbed multiple times, sustaining nerve damage to his arm and damage to his liver, according to the New York Times. 

The attack sent shockwaves through the literary and political worlds. Boris Johnson said he was ‘appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend’, while Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was ‘shocked and appalled to hear of the unprovoked and senseless attack’.

Salman Rushdie

British author JK Rowling has condemned the ‘horrifying’ attempt on Salman Rushdie’s life in upstate New York

The Harry Potter writer, 57, said on Twitter: ‘Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok’

The Harry Potter writer, 57, said on Twitter: ‘Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok’

Rowling also shared tweets from journalists Stephanie Merritt and Hadley Freeman who praised Rushdie's courage

Rowling also shared tweets from journalists Stephanie Merritt and Hadley Freeman who praised Rushdie's courage

Rowling also shared tweets from journalists Stephanie Merritt and Hadley Freeman who praised Rushdie’s courage

On stage at the lecture theatre: Sir Salman Rushdie is seen on the left at the the Chautauqua Institution

On stage at the lecture theatre: Sir Salman Rushdie is seen on the left at the the Chautauqua Institution

Man, 24, who stabbed Salman Rushdie had fake driver’s license in name of HEZBOLLAH commander and praised Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on social media 

The fake driver's license that was found on 24-year-old Hadi Mater bore the name Hassan Mughniyah. Both, the first and second names are linked to infamous terrorist organization Hezbollah

The fake driver’s license that was found on 24-year-old Hadi Mater bore the name Hassan Mughniyah. Both, the first and second names are linked to infamous terrorist organization Hezbollah

The man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie held a fake driver’s license bearing the surname of an infamous Hezbollah commander, it has been claimed.

That driver’s license, which was was found on 24-year-old Hadi Mater bore the name Hassan Mughniyah. Both the first and second names are linked to infamous terrorist organization Hezbollah. The group’s current leader is named Hassan Nasrallah. While one of the group’s most notorious figures was Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a CIA-linked assassination in Syria in 2008.

NBC New York reports that Mater’s social media accounts showed that he was sympathetic to Shia causes, including supporting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Since the 1980s, the IRGC have been linked to Hezbollah, offering training and funding to the primarily Lebanon-based terrorist organization. Hezbollah’s logo is based on the IRGC’s.

According to the Council on Foreign Relation’s profile on Hezbollah: ‘The Iran-backed group is driven by its opposition to Israel and its resistance to Western influence in the Middle East.’

Witnesses to the stabbing say that the suspect wore black clothing and a black mask during the attack on The Satanic Verses author in Buffalo on Friday.

She added: ‘Freedom of expression is a value we hold dear and attempts to undermine it must not be tolerated.’

UK Culture Minister Nadine Dorries called the attack ‘horrifying’, adding: ‘An awful attack on a literary giant and one of the great defenders of freedom of expression.’

Muslim societies on both sides of the Atlantic were quick to condemn the attack. The Muslim Council of Britain tweeted: ‘Such violence is wrong and the perpetrator must be brought to justice,’ while Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, added: ‘American Muslims, like all Americans, condemn any violence targeting anyone in our society.’

Markus Dohle, chief executive of Penguin Random House, the author’s publisher, said: ‘We are deeply shocked and appalled to hear of the attack on Salman Rushdie. We condemn this violent public assault, and our thoughts are with Salman and his family at this distressing time.’

Sir Salman was stabbed at least once in the neck and once in the abdomen, according to police officials, before he was taken to hospital.

According to the NYT Sir Salman’s agent Andrew Wylie said he is on a ventilator and unable to speak.

Mr Wylie added the news was ‘not good’ and the author will ‘likely lose one eye’. He said the nerves in Sir Salman’s arm were severed in the attack and his liver was ‘stabbed and damaged’.

Major Eugene Staniszweski of New York State Police said late on Friday: ‘Earlier today at approximately 10.47am, guest speaker Salman Rushdie, aged 75, and Ralph Henry Reese, age 73, had just arrived on stage at the institution.

‘Shortly thereafter, the suspect jumped on to the stage and attacked Mr Rushdie, stabbing him at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen.

‘Several members of the staff at the institution and audience members rushed the suspect and took him to the ground, and shortly thereafter, a trooper who was at the institution took the suspect into custody with the assistance of a Chautauqua County Sheriff’s deputy.

‘Mr Rushdie was provided medical treatment by a doctor who was in the audience until EMS arrived on scene.

‘Mr Rushdie was airlifted to a local trauma centre and is still currently undergoing surgery.’

Photos from the Associated Press (AP) news agency showed Sir Salman lying on his back with his legs in the air and a first responder crouched over him.

His book The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims view it as blasphemous, and its publication prompted Iran’s then-leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling for his death.

Mr Reese, from the City of Asylum organisation, a residency programme for writers living in exile under threat of persecution, suffered a minor head injury.

They were due to discuss America’s role as an asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression.

A video posted to Twitter by an AP reporter in the audience showed a man dressed in black being led away from the stage.

New York governor Kathy Hochul told a press conference that a state police officer saved Sir Salman’s life.

She added: ‘He is alive, he has been airlifted to safety. But here is an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power, someone who’s been out there unafraid, despite the threats that have followed him his entire adult life.’

The Chautauqua Institution, which was hosting the lecture, tweeted about the incident, writing: ‘We ask for your prayers for Salman Rushdie and Henry Reese, and patience as we fully focus on co-ordinating with police officials following a tragic incident at the amphitheatre today.’

Its president Michael Hill said: ‘What we experienced at Chautauqua today is an incident unlike anything in our nearly 150-year history.

‘We were founded to bring people together and community to learn and in doing so, to create solutions through action, to develop empathy and to take on intractable problems. Today now we’re called to take on fear and the worst of all human traits – hate.’

Jeremy Genovese, 68, from Beachwood, Ohio, a retired academic from Cleveland State University, told the PA news agency he arrived at the amphitheatre as it was being evacuated and people were ‘streaming out’.

Matar being escorted from the stage as people tend to author Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution

Matar being escorted from the stage as people tend to author Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution

Blood was spattered on the wall behind where Rushdie had been attacked, with some also seen on a chair. New York State Police confirmed that Rushdie was stabbed in the neck

Blood was spattered on the wall behind where Rushdie had been attacked, with some also seen on a chair. New York State Police confirmed that Rushdie was stabbed in the neck

Law enforcement officers detaining Rushdie's suspected attacker Hadi Matar outside the Chautauqua Institution yesterday

Law enforcement officers detaining Rushdie’s suspected attacker Hadi Matar outside the Chautauqua Institution yesterday

Medics rushed to the scene to take the author to hospital to treat his injuries

Medics rushed to the scene to take the author to hospital to treat his injuries

He said: ‘People were in shock, many people in tears. Chautauqua has always prided itself as a place where people can engage in civil dialogue.

‘The amphitheatre is a large outdoor venue where people have given lectures since the late 1800s. You need a pass to access the grounds but it is not too difficult to get in.’

Sir Salman’s publisher Penguin Random House said they are ‘deeply shocked and appalled’ by the incident.

Chief executive Markus Dohle said in a statement to PA: ‘We are deeply shocked and appalled to hear of the attack on Salman Rushdie while he was speaking at the Chautauqua Institution in New York.

‘We condemn this violent public assault, and our thoughts are with Salman and his family at this distressing time.’ 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was ‘appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend’.

He added: ‘Right now my thoughts are with his loved ones. We are all hoping he is okay.’

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said: ‘Today, the country and the world witnessed a reprehensible attack against the writer Salman Rushdie. This act of violence is appalling.

‘All of us in the Biden-Harris Administration are praying for his speedy recovery. We are thankful to good citizens and first responders for helping Mr Rushdie so quickly after the attack and to law enforcement for its swift and effective work, which is ongoing.’

Sir Salman was previously president of PEN America, which celebrates free expression and speech, and its chief executive Suzanne Nossel was among those reacting to the attack.

She tweeted: ‘PEN America is reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former president and stalwart ally, Salman Rushdie.’

She added: ‘Our thoughts and passions now lie with our dauntless Salman, wishing him a full and speedy recovery. We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.’

Sir Salman began his writing career in the early 1970s with two unsuccessful books before Midnight’s Children, about the birth of India, which won the Booker Prize in 1981.

It went on to bring him worldwide fame and was named ‘best of the Bookers’ on the literary award’s 25th anniversary.

The author lived in hiding for many years in London under a British government protection programme after Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his death over The Satanic Verses.

Finally, in 1998, the Iranian government withdrew its support for the death sentence and Sir Salman gradually returned to public life, even appearing as himself in the 2001 hit film Bridget Jones’s Diary.

The Index on Censorship, an organisation promoting free expression, said money was raised to boost the reward for Sir Salman’s killing as recently as 2016, underscoring that the fatwa for his death still stands.

His other works include The Moor’s Last Sigh and Shalimar The Clown, which was long-listed for the Booker.

He was knighted in 2008 and earlier this year was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

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