Who is Salman Rushdie? Author whose book The Satanic Verses made him a target

Salman Rushdie has been taken to hospital after being attacked on stage at an event in New York.

Rushdie suffered “an apparent stab wound to the neck” according to a statement released shortly after the incident by state police. His interviewer also suffered a minor head injury, police said.

Video footage shows audience members surging on to the stage to help. The assailant, who eyewitnesses claim was wearing a black mask, was restrained and taken into custody.

Who is Salman Rushdie?

Rushdie is an Indian-born, British Booker prize-winning author. He has written 14 novels, but is best known for his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses. In 2007, Rushdie was knighted for his services to literature. He has been living in the US since 2000.

Why has his work led to death threats?

The Satanic Verses – inspired in part by the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, garnered critical acclaim in the UK and won the Whitbread award for novel of the year in 1988.

However, it also caused major controversy as some Muslims accused the text of blasphemy and of mocking Islam. It sparked a series of protests across the UK attended by thousands of British Muslims, many of which involved publicly burning the book.

A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini banned the book in Iran, and issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.

It said: “I inform all zealous Muslims of the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses – which has been compiled, printed and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an – and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.

“I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they may be found, so that no one else will dare to insult the Muslim sanctities. God Willing, whoever is killed on this path is a martyr.”

What has happened since the fatwa was issued?

A bounty of more than £2.5m ($3m) had been offered to anyone who kills Rushdie. The author was forced into hiding under police protection for nine years, but had dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward.

In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from to $3.3m. Later, in 2019, a Twitter account connected to Ayatollah Khomeini was temporarily banned after tweeting “Imam Khomeini’s verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses, it is solid and irrevocable”.

Have there been previous attempts on Rushdie’s life?

There have been a number of failed assassination attempts on Rushdie, as well as attacks on translators of the text.

In 1991 Hitoshi Igarashi, who had translated The Satanic Verses into Japanese, was stabbed to death in his office in the University of Tsukuba by an unknown attacker.

Where else has The Satanic Verses been banned?

The book has been banned in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, Singapore, Venezuela.

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