The suspect behind the knife attack on author Salman Rushdie is 24-year-old Hadi Matar from Fairview, New Jersey. He is currently in custody.
Matar was arrested after he charged Rushdie on stage at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York and allegedly stabbed him repeatedly, New York State Police said Friday.
Rushdie, 75, has faced death threats for his work for decades, since the Indian-origin British author wrote the controversial book The Satanic Verses.
His 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” was considered blasphemous by some Muslims, and it led to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.
In 1991, two translators involved in the book’s publication abroad were stabbed — one fatally. By the late 90’s, the Iranian government said the fatwa would not be carried out.
Rushdie was on a ventilator amid concern that he could lose an eye but he successfully underwent surgery following the attack and his agent reports that doctors say he is expected to recover.
Rushdie, the award-winning author, is “on the road to recovery” after he suffered stab wounds to the neck and abdomen but is no longer on a ventilator, according to the agent.
The attack has left him at risk of losing one eye, with the nerves in his arm being severed; and his liver damaged during the attack.
Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt confirmed that the suspect, Matar, entered a not guilty plea at an arraignment for attempted murder and assault charges. Matar is being held in custody without bail.
Matar’s social media showed him to be sympathetic to “Shia extremism” and the causes of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).
Although there is not yet evidence of direct links between Matar and the IRGC, investigators reportedly found images of Iranian commander Qassem Solemani, who was assassinated in 2020, in a cell phone messaging app belonging to Matar.
According to eyewitness accounts, Matar, who had a pass for the lecture, allegedly jumped on the stage and started beating Rushdie on the chest and neck.
Major Eugene Staniszewski of the New York State Police said the assailant’s motive for the attack is unknown, “but we are working with the FBI, the Sheriff’s Office and we will determine.”
Police executing search warrants at Matar’s last known address, 417 Morningside Avenue in Fairview, had barricaded off streets around the building.
But as recently as 2012 a semi-official religious organization inside Iran placed an over $3 million bounty on the author’s head, and in 2019 Khomeni’s successor was temporarily banned from twitter for calling for Rushdie’s death.
The author was stabbed shortly before he was to talk about the United States as a home for freedom of creative expression, and an asylum for writers and other artists in exile from countries that do not respect free speech.