Salman Rushdie Stabbed In New York

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Haunting Ghosts Of “Satanic verses”: Salman Rushdie Suffers Grievous Injuries In Stabbing Attack

| Updated: August 13, 2022 09:08

Celebrated Indian Born British author Salman Rushdie is attacked by one Haidi Matar (24), on stage during a summertime lecture event at the Chautauqua Institution, southwest of Buffalo in rural New York. He was attacked while he was being introduced to give a talk on “redefining the American home” in the 21st century to a large audience of around 2500 people.

Sir Salman Rushdie, knighted by the British crown in 2007, is living with a bounty of US $ 3 million on his head announced by Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s Supreme leader in 1989 for his alleged blasphemy of Islam through a “fatwa”. A fatwa – a ruling under Islamic law- is issued by an Islamist religious scholar and then handed out by a religious leader as a legal pronouncement. It may call for death, like in Rushdie’s case.

Rushdie, 75, was stabbed at least once in the neck and in the abdomen in an attack which lasted 20 seconds. He was taken to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, by helicopter. Preliminary reports indicate that he is likely to lose one eye. The nerves in his arm are severed and his liver is stabbed and damaged. He is still on the ventilator and unable to speak. The police are yet to frame charges or ascertain the motive. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that he is “getting the care he needs”.

Mumbai-born Rushdie’s Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel Midnight’s Children brought him into the international limelight. Midnight’s Children went on to sell over one million copies in the UK alone. However, it was The Satanic Verses, a book critically acclaimed as one of the most enchanting examples of magical realism that brought him immense fame or defame, from whichever lens one chooses to look at.

A prominent spokesman for free expression and liberal causes, the British-American author, born to non-practising Muslims is an atheist himself. Living in the USA for the last 20 years, Rushdie is a former president of PEN America.

Satanic verses is a banned book in many countries around the world. In India also importing the book is banned. After the fatwa, on numerous occasions, Rushdie had to pull out of literary festivals and appearances due to safety concerns. There have been attacks on the translators and publishers of the book also in the past. Hitoshi Igarashi, a Japanese translator of Rushdie’s novel, was stabbed to death in 1991 and the Italian translator Ettore Capriolo, was injured in a stabbing in Milan in 1991. The Norwegian publisher William Nygaard survived after being shot three times in Oslo in 1993.

Salman Rushdie spent 10 years in hiding following the death threat from the Khomeini fatwa moving 56 times with his wife at the time, novelist Marianne Wiggins. Rushdie used the alias Joseph Anton, a combination of his favourite writers: Anton Chekhov and Joseph Conrad, during hiding. He wrote about his experience in hiding in his memoir published in 2012 called “Joseph Anton.”

Iran’s government has since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment among the majority of Muslims stayed on, ironically without even having gone through the book. The controversial book, considered a fine example of the surrealist, post-modern novel attracted an immediate ban in a number of countries around the world including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and India. Muslims burned it in several demonstrations in the U.K., Pakistan and elsewhere.

Salman Rushdie who married four times to Clarissa Luard, Maria Wiggins, Elisabeth West and Padma Lakshmi between 1978 and 2007. He continued to write unflinchingly despite the looming fatwa against him. His next novel, Victory City, is due to be published in February 2023.

Rushdie wrote about the controversy surrounding his novel in an essay for The New York Review in 1989 and said: “One may not discuss Muhammad as if he were human, with human virtues and weaknesses. One may not discuss the growth of Islam as a historical phenomenon, as an ideology born out of its time. These are the taboos against which The Satanic Verses has transgressed.”

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