Author Salman Rushdie, who suffered years of Islamist death threats after writing The Satanic Verses, has been attacked on stage in New York state.
The Booker Prize winner, 75, was speaking at an event at the Chautauqua Institution at the time.
New York State Police said a male suspect ran up onto the stage and attacked Mr Rushdie and an interviewer.
“Rushdie suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck,” the police statement said.
Witnesses told US media he was stabbed multiple times in the neck and torso area, and appeared to fall backwards as he tried to move away from the assailant.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul told a press conference about an hour later that Mr Rushdie was alive.
He was taken to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, by helicopter. There has been no further official confirmation on the extent of his injuries.
The interviewer who was also on stage, Henry Reese, suffered a minor head injury. Mr Reese is the co-founder of a non-profit that provides sanctuary to writers exiled under threat of persecution.
The suspect was immediately taken into custody, police said.
Mark Sommer, a reporter for Buffalo News, told the BBC News Channel that the attacker had emerged from the audience in a black mask.
A video posted online shows attendees rushing onto the stage immediately following the incident.
Indian-born novelist Mr Rushdie catapulted to fame with Midnight’s Children in 1981, which went on to sell over one million copies in the UK alone.
But his fourth book, in 1988 – The Satanic Verses – forced him into hiding for nine years.
The surrealist, post-modern novel sparked outrage among some Muslims, who considered its content to be blasphemous, and was banned in some countries.
A year after the book’s release, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini called for Mr Rushdie’s execution. He offered a $3m (£2.5m) reward in a fatwa – a legal decree issued by an Islamic religious leader.
The bounty over Mr Rushdie’s head remains active, and although Iran’s government has distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, a quasi-official Iranian religious foundation added a further $500,000 to the reward in 2012.
The British-American citizen – who was born to non-practising Muslims and is an atheist himself – has become a vocal advocate for freedom of expression, defending his work on several occasions.
Though we do not know the motivation of Salman Rushdie’s attacker, the author has faced death threats for more than 30 years since the publication of The Satanic Verses. Mr Rushdie said the main thrust of his novel was to examine the immigrant experience, but some Muslims were offended by portrayals of the Prophet Muhammed and the questioning of the nature of the revelation of the Quran as the word of God.
The Satanic Verses was banned first in the author’s country of birth, India, and then several other countries before Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued his infamous fatwa.
The fatwa called for the killing of anyone involved in the publication of the book and offered rewards to those who took part in the murders. That fatwa has never formally been rescinded.
Surprised by the widespread nature of the protests, Salman Rushdie apologised to Muslims but went into hiding for much of the next 10 years.
Though the writer had escaped physical harm until now, others associated with the book had not, with its Norwegian publisher having been shot and seriously wounded in the early 90s, and its Japanese translator stabbed to death.
Presentational grey line
When Mr Rushdie was knighted in 2007 by Queen Elizabeth II, it sparked protests in Iran and Pakistan, where one cabinet minister said the honour “justifies suicide attacks”.
Several literary events attended by Mr Rushdie have been subject to threats and boycotts – but he continues to write. His next novel, Victory City, is due to be published in February 2023.
Salman Rushdie’s life in numbers
His appearance at the Chautauqua Institution event, in western New York, was the first in a summertime lecture series hosted by the non-profit organisation.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend.”
Writer and graphic novel creator Neil Gaiman said he was “shocked and distressed” by the attack on his friend and fellow writer.
“He’s a good man and a brilliant one and I hope he’s okay,” Gaiman wrote on Twitter.
In a statement, Mr Rushdie’s publishers at Penguin Random House said: “We condemn this violent public assault, and our thoughts are with Salman and his family at this distressing time.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul vowed to “assist however needed in the investigation” into the stabbing.
“Here’s 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,” she said.
Brief Biography Of Ahmed Salman Rushdie
Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie[a] CH FRSL (born 19 June 1947) is an Indian-born novelist. His work often combines magical realism with historical fiction, is primarily dealing with connections, disruptions, and migrations between Eastern and Western civilizations, set on the Indian subcontinent.
Rushdie’s second novel, Midnight’s Children (1981), won the Booker Prize in 1981 and was deemed to be “the best novel of all winners” on two occasions, marking the 25th and the 40th anniversary of the prize. His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), was the subject of controversy, provoking protests from Muslims. Death threats were made against him, including a fatwa calling for his assassination issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, in 1989. The British government put Rushdie under police protection.
In 1983, Rushdie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was appointed Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France in 1999. In 2007, he was knighted for his services to literature. In 2008, The Times ranked him thirteenth on its list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. Since 2000, Rushdie has lived in the United States. He was named Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University in 2015. Earlier, he taught at Emory University. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2012, he published Joseph Anton: A Memoir, an account of his life in the wake of the controversy over The Satanic Verses.
On 12 August 2022, Rushdie was stabbed during a speech in New York. A man rushed the stage and stabbed Rushdie several times just before he delivered a lecture in Chautauqua, New York.