Salman Rushdie, the author whose writings made him the target of death threats from Iran, was stabbed on stage during a literary event in western New York state.
Rushdie was scheduled to talk Friday morning at the Chautauqua Institution, about a 90-minute drive south-west of the city of Buffalo.
“At about 11am, a male suspect ran up on to the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer,” New York state police said in a statement.
The police said Rushdie, 75, suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital.
“His condition is not yet known,” they said, adding that Rushdie’s interviewer suffered a minor head injury.
The suspect has been taken into custody by a state trooper who was assigned to the event, the police said. Additional information about the attacker could not be learned.
The Chautauqua Institution said Rushdie was returning for a discussion about the US “as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression”. He was joined on stage by Henry Reese, co-founder of a Pittsburgh-based group that houses writers living in exile.
Started in 1874 as a place to teach Methodist Sunday school teachers, the institution became the centre of a wider educational movement and is now known for its summer programme, which invites famous authors, musicians and religious leaders to speak and perform. It is also known for bringing together different religious faiths. A Chautauqua representative could not immediately be reached on Friday.
“It happened at a place that is very familiar to me,” said New York governor Kathy Hochul, who described the Chautauqua Institution as a tranquil and rural community where the most pre-eminent speakers, politicians and intellectuals come together to talk.
“This is a place ideally suited for him to be able to speak and that’s what he was attempting to do just in the last hour before he was attacked,” Hochul said.
The governor, who hails from western New York, said she will provide more information on the identity of the perpetrator and a case will be brought in that part of the state.
Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, first published in 1988, has been a subject of continuing controversy because of its depiction of the Islamic prophet Mohammed. The book was banned in Iran and the supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie in 1989.
Following the death threat, Rushdie went into hiding. He lived with armed policemen and adopted the alias Joseph Anton.
Twitter temporarily banned Iran’s current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2019 for tweeting that Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie was “solid and irrevocable”.