An attack after thirty years of death threats. British writer Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and abdomen on Friday August 12 when he was to give a lecture in Chautauqua, a small town in northwestern New York State (United States). ).
Target of a fatwa since 1989 for his novel The Satanic VersesDeemed blasphemous by Iranian religious authorities, the author of Indian origin was immediately hospitalized. “The news is not good” regarding his state of health, told the New York Times his agent. Franceinfo takes stock of the circumstances of this attack.
A stabbing during a conference
British writer Salman Rushdie was about to give a literary lecture in Chautauqua, a small town near Lake Erie, which separates the United States from Canada, when he was attacked with knives. While the author was speaking in a cultural center in the city on Friday August 12, “a suspect rushed to the scene [de l’amphithéâtre] and attacked Salman Rushdie and the interviewer”, announced the American police. Authorities say he was stabbed “at least once on the neck” and “at least once to the abdomen”.
Political science professor Carl LeVan, who was in the room when the attack took place, testified to AFP about what he saw. He says that a man threw himself on the stage where salman Rushdie sat down to stab him violently repeatedly. He “was trying to kill Salman Rushdie”said this witness.
The famous writer is not the only one to have been affected. The person who moderated the debate was “slight head injury”explained the New York police during their press conference. He “was treated for a facial injury” and “has since left the hospital”still according to the New York authorities.
Salman Rushdie hospitalized in serious condition
After the attack, help arrived very quickly, according to the New York State police. Immediately after his assault, Salman Rushdie was transported by helicopter to the nearest hospital where he underwent emergency surgery, New York State Police Major Eugene Staniszewski told reporters.
Despite this rapid intervention, “the news is not good”said Friday night at New York Times the British writer’s agent, Andrew Wylie. “Salman will probably lose an eye; the nerves in his arm were severed and he was stabbed in the liver”she detailed. The 75-year-old man was placed on life support.
24-year-old man arrested
Immediately after the attack, spectators attending the event intervened to try to subdue the attacker, said Andrew Wylie, Salman Rushdie’s agent. The man who stabbed Salman Rushdie was immediately arrested and taken into custody.
The police reveal that his name is Hadi Matar. He is a 24-year-old man who lives in the state of New Jersey. He had bought a ticket to attend the writer’s conference, according to the Parisian.
“We think the aggressor” an act “only”affirmed during a press briefing a police official, who specified that he was “still too early to indicate the motivations of this act”. A search takes place at the suspect’s home and a bag and electronic devices were seized at the scene of the attack. Hadi Matar has sympathies with the Iranian government which called for the death of Salman Rushdie, according to an article by the New York Post (in English).
L’Ayatollah Khomeini had been calling for his assassination since 1989
The writer Salman Rushdie, born in India into a Muslim family, has since 1989 been the target of a fatwa (a religious decree) issued by Iranian Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini (who died the same year), demanding his execution. A large reward was promised for the death of the writer. At the origin of the fury of the Iranian authorities, the publication in 1988 of the novel by Salman Rushdie The Satanic Verses, considered blasphemous by some fundamentalist Muslims. After the publication of the fatwa, Salman Rushdie had been forced to live in hiding and under police protection.
Living discreetly in New York, Salman Rushdie had tried to resume a more or less normal life while continuing to defend, in his books, satire and irreverence. But the fatwa was never lifted and many of the translators of his book were injured by attacks or even killed, such as the Japanese Hitoshi Igarashi, victim of several stab wounds in 1991.
In France and abroad, indignant politicians
Salman Rushdie’s attack has moved many heads of state. In France, the entire political class rose up after the attack on the writer. The French president showed his support for the author of the satanic verses : “His fight is ours, universal”launched Emmanuel Macron on Twitter on Friday, claiming to be “today, more than ever, by his side”.
For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. Hate and barbarism have just struck him, cowardly. His fight is ours, universal. Today, more than ever, we are at his side.
—Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 12, 2022
Within the government, the Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, denounced on Twitter a “barbaric act” and paid tribute to “33 years of courage”while Pap Ndiaye, Minister of National Education, praised a writer “symbol of freedom and erudition, which no Islamist obscurantism will stop”.
In the oppositions, the attack was also condemned unanimously. “It is a symbol of resistance against Islamist totalitarianism that has been attacked”reacted the president of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella. The interim president of the Republicans, Annie Genevard, estimated that “the fight of our democracies must be without weakness against an enemy who is playing for the long term to reduce our freedom”. On the left, the leader of the socialist deputies, Boris Vallaud, condemned an attack “serious and intolerable”, while the president of the environmental group in the Assembly, Julien Bayou, castigated a “despicable fatwa”. “The religious fanatics who issued a fatwa against him no doubt bear the responsibility”, vilified the deputy of La France insoumise Alexis Corbière.
“Appalled”, “horrified”… In the rest of the world, statements have multiplied in recent hours. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right we should never stop defending”referring to freedom of expression. “This act of violence is appalling“, estimated the security adviser to the American president Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan.
In France, the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, victim of an Islamist attack that killed 12 people in its editorial office in 2015, was indignant at this attack. “Nothing justifies a fatwa, a death sentence”hammered Riss, the editorial director.
The attacker praised by the conservative Iranian press
On the other hand, the tone is quite different in the conservative Iranian press, which largely celebrated this attack. Iran’s main ultra-conservative daily, Kayhancongratulated the attacker on Saturday. “Bravo to this brave and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and vicious Salman Rushdie”writes the newspaper, whose boss is appointed by the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Let us kiss the hand of him who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife”continues the text. The Iranian authorities have so far not officially commented on the assassination attempt on the 75-year-old intellectual. All of the Iranian media have called Salman Rushdie a“bet”with the exception ofAdvancesa reformist newspaper.