Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born author who received death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked Friday morning in New York by a man who rushed the stage where the author was to speak, New York State Police said.Rushdie was transported to a local hospital by helicopter with an apparent stab wound to the neck, police said.
The world-renowned author, who is 75 years old, was attending a lecture series at the Chautauqua Institution as a guest speaker when the incident occurred. Police said a male suspect charged the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer at approximately 11 a.m. ET.
The suspect was immediately taken into custody and Rushdie was transported to a local hospital. Rushdie’s condition at this time is unknown, a police statement said. The police said the interviewer, who was not named in the release, sustained a minor head injury.
But a tweet from the Chautauqua Institution indicated that the other victim is Henry Reese, co-founder of City of Asylum, a residency program for writers in exile.
“We ask for your prayers for Salman Rushdie and Henry Reese, and patience as we fully focus on coordinating with police officials following a tragic incident at the Amphitheater today,” the institution said.
Rushdie was visiting the institution to discuss with Reese how the United States serves as asylum for writers in exile, according to the Chautauqua Institution’s event page.
Rushdie has written 14 novels, including The Satanic Verses, one of his most popular books, which resulted in death threats against the author from Iran’s leader in 1989.
Beyond his work as a writer, Rushdie has long championed the importance of freedom of expression. He served as the president of PEN America between 2004 and 2006 and then as chairman of the PEN World Voices International Literary Festival for 10 years.
PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement that the organization was shocked to learn about the attack. Rushdie had emailed her just hours before the attack to help place writers from Ukraine seeking asylum.
“Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered,” Nossel said. “He has devoted tireless energy to assisting others who are vulnerable and menaced.”