September 25, 2022

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That attack could occur in US indicative of threat to writers, says interviewer Henry Reese

WASHINGTON: The attack on Salman Rushdie, given assailant Hadi Matar’s purported Iranian sympathies, immediately took on geopolitical colours, coming as it did just days after the Biden administration’s justice department charged a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of trying to orchestrate the assassination of former national security adviser John Bolton.
Matar was pinned down by audience members who jumped onstage to protect the panelists, and a doctor among them helped administer CPR to Rushdie before he was airlifted to hospital. Rushdie’s interviewer Henry Reese, 73, was also hurt in the attack, but was discharged from a local hospital after treatment.
Reese, who is co-founder of an organisation that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, and Rushdie were slated to talk about US as a refuge for writers in exile. In a statement issued later, Reese called Rushdie “one of the great defenders of freedom of speech and freedom of creative expression”, adding, “The fact that this attack could occur in the US is indicative of the threats to writers from many governments and from many individuals and organisations.”

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Iran’s fundamentalist clerical leadership led by Ayatollah Khomeini had passed a death fatwa on Rushdie following the publication of his book ‘Satanic Verses’ in 1988. The fatwa had never been formally revoked, but after years in hiding and under protection, Rushdie, currently living in New York City, had lately resumed normal engagements.
French President Emmanuel Macron was among world leaders who spoke for the author, saying “for 33 years, Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. He has just been the victim of a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarism. His fight is our fight; it is universal. Now more than ever, we stand by his side.”
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan denounced the “appalling” attack and said members of the Biden-Harris administration were praying for Rushdie’s speedy recovery. New York governor Kathy Hochul called the attack “horrific”. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres too condemned the attack
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