Author and creative freedom activist Salman Rushdie was on a ventilator fighting for his life on Saturday and his literary agent said: “The news is not good.”
Rushdie, 75, who has a multimillion-dollar bounty, was stabbed several times while getting ready to speak at a discussion on the US as “a home for freedom and creative expression” and was helicoptered from the venue in western New York State to a hospital in neighbouring Pennsylvania on Friday.
“Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” agent, Andrew Wylie, said in a statement.
New York State Police said that Hadi Matar, 24, who was arrested at the site of the stabbing is to be produced in court on Saturday to face charges of attempted murder and Assault 2nd degree.
A state police trooper, who was at the event with an explosive detection dog, arrested the assailant, police said.
The other speaker at the event Ralph Henry Reese, 73 suffered a minor head injury, according to police.
The incident took place at Chautauqua Institution, an education and spirituality centre about 500 km from New York City.
He was to participate in a “discussion of the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression”, according to the organisation’s website.
Rushdie drew the fury of many Muslims who considered his 1988 novel, “Satanic Verses”, blasphemous.
Rushdie is under a fatwa issued by the late Ayatolla Khomeini when he was Iran’s Supreme Leader in 1989 and Iranian organisations have put a reward of over $3 million for killing him.
Al Qaeda also put him on its hit list of literary and media figures.
Under British government protection, Rushdie lived underground for several years and moved to the US in 2000 where he emerged in public participating in several events, while also writing novels set in the US.
An assassination attempt against him failed in 1989 when a bomb went off at a London hotel where he was thought to be staying and demolished two floors of the building.
The Mujahidin of Islam group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Japanese translator of “Satanic Verses”, Hitoshi Igarashi was stabbed to death in Tokyo in 1991.
Two European linked to the translations of the novel were also attacked, but survived.
William Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher of the translation, was shot in in Oslo 1993 and the Italian translator was stabbed in 1991 in Milan.
The Congress Party government of Rajiv Gandhi banned the novel because of violent protests in India.
The attack on Rushdie raises the fears of the Islamic world’s religious turmoil spilling over to the US.
An Afghan Sunni Muslim was arrested this week in New Mexico State in connection with the serial killing of four Shia Muslims, three of them from Pakistan.
Condemnation of the attack and messages of sympathy for Rushdie poured in from leaders and literary figures from around the world.
Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “In no case is violence a response to words spoken or written by others in their exercise of the freedoms of opinion and expression. He conveys his wishes for Mr Rushdie’s early recovery.”
“All of us in the Biden-Harris Administration are praying for his speedy recovery,” said President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
“This act of violence is appalling,” he said.
Referring to the wide condemnation of the apparent terrorist attack, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said, “This is something that the whole world has noticed and the whole world has reacted to such an attack.”
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, an organisation that advocates literary freedom and writers’ rights, said, “We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil.”
She added: “Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered.A He has devoted tireless energy to assisting others who are vulnerable and menaced.”
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has witnessed brutal attacks by Islamists on the media, said that Rushdie has “been the victim of a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarism”.
“His fight is our fight,” he declared.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend”.