Rushdie off ventilator, able to speak, suspect charged with attempted murder

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Salman Rushdie, the author of the blasphemous anti-Islam novel The Satanic Verses, is now off a ventilator and is able to speak after being stabbed on Friday in New York state.

The blasphemous author, 75, was stabbed multiple times at a cultural event after a suspect ran onto the stage and attacked him and an interviewer at the Chautauqua Institution.

Mr Rushdie was stabbed at least once in the neck and in the abdomen, authorities said. He was taken to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, by helicopter.

Police told a press conference that staff and audience members had rushed the attacker and took him to the ground, and he was then arrested. A doctor in the audience gave Mr Rushdie first aid.

Meanwhile, police have charged a suspect named as Hadi Matar, 24, from Fairview, New Jersey, with attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

No motive or charges have yet been confirmed by police, but Matar’s Facebook page, which has now been taken down, appears to show solidarity with the Iranian authorities.

The New York state police said they believed that Matar was acting alone.

Upon publication of the Satanic Verses in 1988, Muslims worldwide were outraged by a character called “Mahound,” who appears in dream sequences in the novel and was alleged to be “a thinly and perversely disguised representation of the Prophet Mohammed.” The name Mahound was used in medieval Christian plays to represent satanic figures, and some Muslims concluded that Rushdie was implying that Muhammad (pbuh) was a false prophet.

In the book, Rushdie also gave the names of the Prophet’s wives to twelve prostitutes in a brothel. And he invoked a discredited and false tradition – the so-called satanic verses – in which Satan inspired Muhammad (pbuh) to compromise with the people of Mecca and to allow them to continue to worship other deities in an attempt to lure them to Islam.

In mid-February 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa calling for the death of Rushdie and his publishers, and called for Muslims to point him out to those who can kill him if they cannot themselves.

In response, the British Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher gave Rushdie round-the-clock police protection. With police protection Rushdie escaped direct physical harm, but others associated with his book weren’t so lucky.

Hitoshi Igarashi, his Japanese translator, was found by a cleaning lady, stabbed to death in July 1991 on the college campus where he taught near Tokyo. Ten days prior to Igarashi’s killing Rushdie’s Italian translator Ettore Capriolo was seriously injured by an attacker at his home in Milan by being stabbed multiple times.

William Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher of The Satanic Verses, was critically injured by being shot three times in the back by an assailant on October 11, 1993 in Oslo. Nygaard survived but spent months in hospital recovering.

The book’s Turkish translator Aziz Nesin was the intended target of a mob of arsonists who set fire to the Madimak Hotel after Friday prayers on 2 July 1993 in Sivas, Turkey, killing 37 people. Nesin escaped death when the mob failed to recognise him early in the attack.

Finally, in 2006, the Iranian government withdrew its support for the carrying out of the death sentence and Rushdie gradually returned to public life.

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