Salman Rushdie — a celebrated author and winner of the world’s top literary prizes whose writings generated death threats — was attacked and apparently stabbed in the neck on stage Friday before giving a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, State Police said.
A state trooper at the scene took the suspect into custody, police said.
Rushdie was airlifted to a local hospital, police said. His condition is unknown. An interviewer also suffered a minor head injury, police said.
A man on the stage was seen “punching or stabbing” the novelist before the event, according to an AP reporter who witnessed the attack.
Medical staff and police were called to the amphitheater, according to a Chautauqua spokesperson who would not elaborate or confirm details about the incident.
The witness could not confirm what was used in the attack, adding that he was 75 feet from stage.
The 75-year-old novelist — the son of a successful Muslim businessman in India — was educated in England, first at Rugby School and later at the University of Cambridge where he received an MA degree in history.
After college, he began working as an advertising copywriter in London, before publishing his first novel, “Grimus” in 1975.
Rushdie’s treatment of delicate political and religious subjects turned him into a controversial figure. But it was the publication of his fourth novel “The Satanic Verses” in 1988 that has hounded him for more than three decades.
Some Muslims found the book to be sacrilegious and it sparked public demonstrations. In 1989, the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called Rushdie a blasphemer and said “The Satanic Verses” was an insult on Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, and issued a religious decree, or fatwa, calling for his death.
As a result, the Mumbai-born writer spent a decade under British protection before the Iranian government announced it would no longer seek to enforce the fatwa in 1998.