The Indian-born British author, who has received death threats for his 1988 book, “The Satanic Verses,” is on a ventilator after being stabbed at least twice, including once in the liver. According to his agent, he will lose one eye.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet that he was “shocked” by the incident and expressed his support for Rushdie’s recovery.
“I am shocked that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right that we should never cease to defend. At the moment my thoughts are with his loved ones. We all hope he is okay,” Johnson said on Friday.
French President Emmanuel Macron also tweeted his support for Rushdie after the attack.
“[For] For 33 years, Salman Rushdie embodies freedom and the fight against obscurantism. He has just fallen victim to a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarity. His struggle is our struggle; it is universal. Now more than ever we are by his side,” Macron said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also condemned the attack, calling it “sick and cowardly”.
“This senseless violence against a celebrated author is also an attack on global freedom of expression and deserves an unequivocal condemnation. May he fully recover,” Albanian added.
The 75-year-old novelist – the son of a successful Muslim businessman in India – was educated in England, first at Rugby School and later at Cambridge University, where he earned an MA in History.
He later spent ten years under British protection after his fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses,” prompted Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a religious decree, or fatwa, calling for his death.
The bounty against Rushdie was never lifted, but in 1998 the Iranian government tried to distance itself from the fatwa by promising not to implement it.
But in February 2017, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reaffirmed the religious edict.
And in 2019, Khamenei tweeted that Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie was “solid and irrevocable”, prompting Twitter to impose a restriction on his account.
Iranian-born German politician Bijan Djir-Sarai blamed the Iranian government for the attack, saying in a tweet on Friday: “The regime of the Iranian mullahs is also responsible for this cowardly attack. Anyone who wants normal relations with this regime , must know this.”
The suspect in the attack has been identified as Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey. There has been no official response from Iran to the attack yet.
However, several hardline Iranian newspapers praised Matar on Saturday, including the conservative Kayhan newspaper, whose editor-in-chief has been appointed by Khamenei.
“A thousand bravos, a hundred God bless. His hand must be kissed… Bravo to the warrior and dutiful man who attacked the renegade and evil Salman Rushdie. The warrior’s hand must be kissed. He tore the vein from Rushdie’s neck”, the newspaper said.
Another hardline newspaper, Khorasan, ran a headline, “The Devil on the Path to Hell,” showing a photo of Rushdie on a stretcher.
The news has shocked authors from across South Asia and the diaspora, including Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, who said she was “shocked” by the news.
“I never thought it would happen. He lives in the West and has been protected since 1989,” said Nasreen, who is known for her writings on women’s oppression, and some of her books have been banned in Bangladesh.
“If he is attacked, anyone who criticizes Islam could be attacked. I am concerned,” she said.
Aatish Taseer, a British-American writer and journalist who had his Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card – a form of permanent residence available to people of Indian descent – revoked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019, said he was “devastated” by the news.
“Devastated by the news about @SalmanRushdie. He was the first writer I ever met and his determination to defend his freedom (and that of others) in the face of religious extremism has been a constant inspiration. I know it well come with him. He must be,” Taseer said.
American writers and organizations are also recovering from the attack. Rushdie has been living in the United States for the past few years.
Press freedom group PEN America said in a statement Friday that the organization is “trembling with shock and horror” following Friday’s attack.
“We cannot think of a comparable incident of a public attack on a literary writer on American soil,” said CEO Suzanne Nossel.
“Salman Rushdie has been the target of his words for decades, but he never backed down,” Nossel said. “He has put tireless energy into helping others who are vulnerable and threatened.”
Nossel also said that hours before the attack, Rushdie had sent her an email requesting help finding a safe haven for “Ukrainian writers who need a safe haven from the grave dangers they face.”
CNN’s Eyad Kourdi, Jake Kwon, Alex Stambaugh, Jonny Hallam and Ramin Moshtaghian reported.