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29th January 2023

Salman Rushdie Stabbing: Police Identify Suspect

Salman Rushdie: Police Arrest A 24-Year-Old As Suspect In Stabbing Incident
Salman Rushdie: Police Arrest A 24-Year-Old As Suspect In Stabbing Incident (Charles Fox via AP)

A 24-year-old man Hadi Matar has been named as the suspect in Salman Rushdie stabbing in New York City on Friday, People magazine reports.

According to the report, The Satanic Verses author, 75, was attacked Friday as he was being introduced at a literary festival at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, per the Associated Press.

The New York State Police announced in a release that the attacker has been identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, and is currently in custody.

Major Eugene J. Staniszewski said in a press conference captured by CBS News that Salman Rushdie, a guest speaker at a lecture, and Ralph Henry Reese, 73, had “just arrived on stage” when Matar rushed the stage and stabbed Salman Rushdie “at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen.”

Members of the institution’s staff, along with some in the audience, tackled Matar. An onsite trooper and Chautauqua deputy then arrested Matar. A doctor treated Rushdie until EMS got to the scene, police said.

Rushdie was airlifted to a hospital and as of the time of the news conference was in surgery at a local trauma center. Reese has been released from the hospital and is recovering from a facial injury.

Police said a motive isn’t clear at this time, however, police are working with the District Attorney’s office to get a search warrant for a backpack and electronic devices that Matar had with him. Authorities are “assuming he was alone” but are investigating to confirm.

Officials said Matar accessed the building with a pass, just like other attendees in the audience.

A further investigation will determine charges against Matar that could be filed by Friday evening, officials said, noting that there is a police presence with Salman Rushdie at the hospital.

The author, who was born in Mumbai and moved to England permanently after attending school at Cambridge, was the subject of a fatwā, or religious ruling, from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 after his novel The Satanic Verses was released. Many Muslims were outraged by the writing and demonstrations were held around the world.

Because of threats against his life and million-dollar bounties on his head, Rushdie went into hiding for almost a decade.

Rushdie was married at the time to author Marianne Wiggins; they divorced shortly after. Rushdie has been married three other times; first to Clarissa Luard, third to Elizabeth West and most recently to author and chef Padma Lakshmi from 2004 to 2007.

Rushdie is the former president of PEN America. In a statement after the attack, CEO Suzanne Nossel said, “PEN America is reeling from shock and horror at the word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former President and stalwart ally, Salman Rushdie.”

“We can think of no comparable incident of a public attack on a literary writer on American soil,” the statement continued.

The statement ended by offering well-wishes to Rushdie: “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.”

The investigation remains ongoing.

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