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Opinion: Famed Author Salman Rushdie Is Recovering from Life-Changing Injuries

Daniella Cressman

Salman Rushdie is recovering from life-changing injuries.

"Famed author Salman Rushdie is recovering at a hospital after he was repeatedly stabbed on stage Friday in front of a New York audience in an attack that left him with severe injuries, his family said. The family of the 75-year-old author – who has for decades lived under threat because of his writings – said he was in critical condition Sunday after the attack, which ended with the assailant held down by staff and guests and Rushdie airlifted to a hospital." —Nouran Salaheih

Over the weekend, he was taken off of the ventilator, but he may permanently lose his right eye as a result of the attack.

"Rushdie was taken off a ventilator over the weekend but was still being treated for injuries including three stab wounds to his neck, four stab wounds to his stomach, puncture wounds to his right eye and chest, and a laceration on his right thigh...the author may lose his right eye" —Jason Schmidt (Chautauqua County District Attorney)

It is a relief to know that this beloved wordsmith is recovering, although it is tragic that the injuries he has sustained are so drastic.

THE ASSAULT

This was an assault not only on Rushdie's body but also on his ideology. It has garnered an outpouring of support from President Joe Biden and other leaders of the Western world: someone attempted to take this man's life because he was exercising his right to free speech.

What does this mean for writers if someone finds one novel or article too controversial and threatening?

People are terrified.

Ralph Henry Reese—a speaker at the event and the co-founder of a Pittsburgh project offering refuge to exiled writers known as the City of Asylum— was also injured, though he has survived and is recovering. He is primarily concerned about the author's condition.

IRAN

While many reeled at the news of the attack, Iran was in full support of the assailant and actually blamed the victim.

"'Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie, we do not consider anyone other than (Rushdie) and his supporters worthy of blame and even condemnation,' the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said in a televised news conference Monday." —Nouran Salaheih

Rushdie had spent years in hiding, fearing for his life after he penned The Satanic Verses, which deeply upset many members of the Muslim community in Iran who found it sacrilegious.

Since a year after the publication of that book, the author has had a large bounty on his head for anyone who kills him.

"A year after the [The Satanic Verse's] release, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini called for Mr Rushdie's execution. He offered a $3m (£2.5m) reward in a fatwa - a legal decree issued by an Islamic religious leader." —Sam Cabral

Despite this, Iranian authorities have denied any connections between the assailant and their country.

THE SUSPECT

The suspect is 24-year-old Hadi Matar from Fairview, New Jersey.

"The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested by a state trooper after the attack and taken into custody." —Nouran Salaheih

The attack was pre-planned, according to Jason Schmidt: a district attorney.

"Schmidt called the stabbing a 'targeted, preplanned, unprovoked attack on Mr. Rushdie,' saying Matar traveled to Chautauqua by bus with cash, prepaid Visa cards and false identification. The felony complaint against Matar indicated a knife was used in the stabbing." —Nouran Salaheih

The assailant entered the event with a knife, at least according to the felony complaint against him. This has led to outrage: Rushdie is an exceptionally controversial author, so many believe there should have been more extensive protections in place.

"It remains unclear how the suspect may have entered the event armed with a knife. There were no security searches or metal detectors at the event, said a witness whom CNN is not identifying because they expressed concerns for their personal safety." —Nouran Salaheih

Still, hindsight is 20/20 and there were some safety measures taken, which is why the author is still alive.

“'We assess for every event what we think the appropriate security level is, and this one was certainly one that we thought was important, which is why we had a State Trooper and Sheriff presence there,' said institution President Michael Hill, who defended his organization’s security plans when asked during a news conference Friday whether there would be more precautions at future events." —Nouran Salaheih

With assistance, Rushdie was able to be rushed to the hospital.

“The team that was on the ground here and the EMTs, the firefighters and those who show up and literally kept the man alive as they were transporting him did an extraordinary job." —Governor Kathy Hochul

Of course, he should never have been attacked in the first place, but few were expecting it—the whole ordeal was shocking and likely seemed surreal when it was happening.

Matar has pleaded not guilty.

"Matar – who authorities said has no documented criminal history – pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault with intent to cause physical injury with a deadly weapon, his public defender, Nathaniel Barone, told CNN on Saturday. Matar has been 'very cooperative' and communicating openly, the attorney said with discussing what was said during those conversations. He faces up to 32 years if convicted of both charges, Schmidt said." —Nouran Salaheih

Although the suspect has no criminal record, it seems that few people knew him well, and he tended to keep to himself.

THIS ATTACK IS A THREAT TO FREE SPEECH

Rushdie's writings have won him literary prizes, but his success has come with an enormous cost—one that no artist should be faced with: the man has had to fear for his life nearly every day, yet he has continued to create, thrive, and do his best to empower others.

"Rushdie’s writings have won him literary prizes – and much scrutiny. His fourth novel, 'The Satanic Verses,' drew condemnation from some Muslims who found it to be sacrilegious. The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who described the book as an insult to Islam and Prophet Mohammed, issued a religious decree, or fatwa, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989." —Nouran Salaheih

This awful attack is a tragic reminder that speaking freely about one's believes and sparking civilized—if heated—discussions can lead to a gifted artist's life being in grave danger.

Rushdie is—amazingly—in relatively good spirits, his sense of humor intact despite the severity of the state he is in.

"Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humor remains intact." —Zafar Rushdie (Salman Rushdie's son)

This is a grave reminder that writers must ultimately be aware that ideas—especially complex, multifaceted, controversial ones—can be received as a threat to societies around the globe.

Comedians are also scared for their lives right now as more and more people physically attack them for telling a joke that they didn't like, simply because they were doing their jobs—They're supposed to be controversial.

This, if anything, indicates, that more individuals need to support the arts and the artists behind controversial books, movies, comedic monologues, etc.: society deserves to receive multiple points of view, expressed in many different ways from people who come from diverse walks of life.

Writers need to keep writing and comedians need to keep telling jokes, but we need to be increasingly aware that those who are threatened by free speech could very well become violent.

Clearly, more protections need to be established at these events so that Rushdie can have a platform to share ideas while remaining safe—ideas which are not only controversial but clearly very important—without fearing for his life.

Perhaps all events need more protections.

The man has been through enough already and all artists deserve more than this.

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Canadian-American author writing about local politics, personal finance, & dining in Albuquerque.

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