After writer Salman Rushdie was stabbed Friday at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York, federal and state investigators were trying to determine the suspect’s motives, plans, communications and movements as Rushdie remained awkward Saturday.
Andrew Wylie, his agent, said in an email Friday night that Mr. Rushdie, who has spent decades under Iran’s embargo, was on a ventilator after undergoing hours of surgery and could not speak. Efforts to reach Mr. Wylie on Saturday were unsuccessful.
Mr Wylie said on Friday that the author’s condition was “not good”. He said that Mr. Rushdie may lose one of his eyes, his liver has been damaged and his arm nerves have been severed.
On Saturday, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, said he was appalled by the attack on the writer, who for decades has become a symbol of freedom of expression in the face of repression.
“Violence is in no way a response to words spoken or written by others while exercising their freedom of opinion and expression,” Mr. Guterres said in a statement.
Salman Rushdie’s most influential work
Salman Rushdie’s most influential work
“Midnight’s Children” (1981). Salman Rushdie’s second novel, Arrival in Modern India, was awarded the Booker Prize and was an international success. The story is told through the life of Selim Sinai, who was born at the same moment of India’s independence.
There is no indication of a motive, the New York State Police said at a news conference Friday afternoon, but they were working with the FBI.
New York State Police said Hadi Matar, 24, of New Jersey, was arrested at the scene and charged with attempted murder and assault. Officials said he is being held at Chautauqua County Jail, where he was due to be tried on Saturday.
A video on TikTok that was later deleted showed the chaotic scene on Friday, moments after the attacker jumped on stage in an usually quiet center of intellectual discourse. Mr. Rushdie, who had been living relatively openly after years of semi-secret living, had just taken a seat to give a speech when a man attacked him.
A crowd of people immediately rushed to where the author is lying on the stage to offer help. Amazed members of the audience were seen all over the runway. While some were shouting, others got up and slowly moved towards the platform. People began to gather in the corridors. A person could be heard shouting “Oh my God” over and over again.
A deputy mayor and another law enforcement officer ran with a dog to the scene about a minute later.
In a statement on Friday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the attack on Mr. Rushdie “reprehensible”.
“This act of violence is appalling,” he said.
The state police did not provide an update on Rushdie’s condition on Saturday morning. A spokeswoman for a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Rushdie is being treated, said it would not provide information on the patient’s condition.
At a house listed as Mr. Mater’s home in Fairview, New Jersey, no one answered the door on Saturday morning. A woman in a gray jeep in the driveway kept her windows up, waving to reporters as she ran away. Several of Mr. Matar’s neighbors said they did not know him.
Antonio Loba, who lives across the street from Matar, said he saw between 10 and 15 FBI agents outside Mr. Matar’s home on Friday afternoon. He said they stayed until about 1:30 a.m.
Officials said at a news conference Friday that they are working to obtain search warrants for a backpack and electronic devices found at the facility.
Mr. Rushdie has been living under the threat of an assassination attempt since 1989, about six months after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses. The book depicted parts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad with perceptions that offended some Muslims, who believed that the narration was infidels. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led Iran after its 1979 revolution, issued a fatwa known as a fatwa on February 14, 1989. It ordered Muslims to kill Mr. Rushdie.
In 1991, the Japanese novel’s translator was stabbed to death and its Italian translator was badly injured. The Norwegian novel’s publisher was shot three times in 1993 outside his home in Oslo and seriously injured.
Elizabeth HarrisAnd the Chelsea Rose Marcius And the Farnaz Fassihi Contribute to the preparation of reports.