Updated August 18, 2022
The Authors Guild is deeply troubled and outraged by the attack on Salman Rushdie on August 12 during an event at the Chautauqua Institution, where he was speaking on the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression. Rushdie was stabbed multiple times by 24-year old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, who was apprehended at the scene and is now facing charges of assault and attempted murder. His interviewer, Henry Reese, co-founder of City of Asylum, a residency program for writers in exile, also suffered a minor head injury.
We are thankful that Rushdie survived the cowardly attack, the motive for which appears to be revenge for Rushdie criticizing Islamic beliefs. The Authors Guild firmly stands by Rushdie and his right to creative expression just as we did in 1989 when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa and called for Rushdie’s assassination for committing blasphemy and insulting the prophet Muhammad in his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses. We do not tolerate attacks on free speech of any kind, much less assault and murder.
“I was horrified and shocked to learn that our valued member and longtime friend, the novelist Salman Rushdie, was violently stabbed while on stage at a literary event at the Chautauqua Institution in New York,” said Doug Preston, president of the Authors Guild. “The assault on Rushdie was an attack on all writers and on free speech itself. We are all Salman Rushdie.”
Born and raised in Bombay, India, before moving to England to attend high school and the University of Cambridge, Rushdie’s work often combines magical realism with historical fiction relating to the complexities and dissonance that occurs when Eastern and Western civilizations converge. He is the author of fourteen novels, including Midnight’s Children, for which he won the 1981 Booker Prize. Following the fatwa in 1989, Rushdie went into hiding and lived under police protection of the British government for more than a decade. He immigrated to the United States in 2000.
In a speech made to the UN, Rushdie once said, “Above all we must understand that stories are at the heart of what’s happening, and the dishonest narratives of oppressors have attracted many. So we must work to overturn the false narratives of tyrants, populists, and fools by telling better stories than they do, stories in which people want to live. The battle is not only on the battlefield. The stories we live in are also contested territories.”
As Rushdie begins the long process of recovery from the grievous injuries sustained during the attack, we celebrate his bravery and wish for his health and safety for many years to come.