The author of The Satanic Verses remains in hospital after suffering serious injuries from an attack carried out by 24-year-old Hadi Matar, who is under police investigation.

Rushdie has faced death threats since the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988.
Rushdie has faced death threats since the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988. (AFP Archive)

Salman Rushdie has remained hospitalised after suffering serious injuries in a stabbing attack while on stage for a panel at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.

Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday evening. Rushdie was likely to lose the injured eye.

Police identified the suspect as Hadi Matar, 24. He was arrested after the attack at Chautauqua, a nonprofit education and retreat center.

Police said the motive for the Friday attack was unclear. Matar was born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” first was published. Investigators were working to determine whether the assailant acted alone.

An AP reporter witnessed the attacker confront Rushdie on stage and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as the author was being introduced. Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”

The suspect’s attorney, public defender Nathaniel Barone, said he was still gathering information and declined to comment. Matar’s home was blocked off by authorities.

READ MORE: Salman Rushdie undergoes surgery after stabbing in New York

A history of death threats

Rushdie's novel “The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988. It was viewed as blasphemous by many Muslims who saw a character as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections.

The book was banned in Iran where the late Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.  In September 2012, an Iranian religious foundation raised its bounty for killing Rushdie to $3.3 million.

Iran's government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini's decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiments linger in the country.

Iran’s theocratic government and its state-run media assigned no statement on the assault. 

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, a co-founder of an organisation that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, was also attacked. Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. 

The stabbing reverberated from the town of Chautauqua to the United Nations, which issued a statement expressing UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ horror and stressing that free expression and opinion should not be met with violence.

Rushdie rose to prominence with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” but his name became known around the world after “The Satanic Verses.”

READ MORE: Morocco bans British film about daughter of Prophet Muhammad

Source: AP