Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born author who received death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked Friday morning in New York by a man who rushed the stage where the author was to speak, New York State Police said. Rushdie was transported to a local hospital by helicopter with a stab wound to the neck, police said.
Police have named Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from fair View, New Jersey, as the suspect in custody. A motive has yet to be established, State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said at a news conference Friday evening.
The world-renowned author, who is 75 years old, was attending a lecture series at the Chautauqua Institution as a guest speaker when the incident occurred. According to a police statement, a male suspect charged the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer at approximately 11 a.m. ET.
The suspect was immediately taken into custody and Rushdie was transported to a local hospital. Staniszewski said Rushdie was undergoing surgery and his condition is unknown at this time. He also said that the interviewer, Henry Reese, was treated at a local hospital for a minor head injury and has since been released.
Reese is the co-founder of City of Asylum, a residency program for writers in exile, and was on stage with Rushdie during the attack.
Chautauqua Institution President Michael Hill said security needs for events are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
"I would say we take our security measures very, very seriously," he said at the news conference.
The institution said it had a State Trooper and Sheriff's officer in attendance because of how important this particular event was going to be. Matar had purchased a pass to the event like other attendees, Hill explained.
"What we experienced at Chautauqua today is an incident unlike anything in our nearly 150-year history," Hill said. "Today, now, we're called to take on fear and the worst of all human traits; hate."
Rushdie was visiting the institution to discuss with Reese how the United States serves as an asylum for writers in exile, according to the Chautauqua Institution's event page.
Rushdie has written 14 novels, including The Satanic Verses, one of his most popular books, which resulted in death threats against the author from Iran's leader in 1989.
Beyond his work as a writer, Rushdie has long championed the importance of freedom of expression. He served as the president of PEN America between 2004 and 2006 and then as chairman of the PEN World Voices International Literary Festival for 10 years.
PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement that the organization was shocked to learn about the attack. Rushdie had emailed her just hours before the attack to help place writers from Ukraine seeking asylum.
"Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered," Nossel said. "He has devoted tireless energy to assisting others who are vulnerable and menaced."