The moment Salman Rushdie knifeman was tackled by audience members seconds after stabbing is revealed in new video – as author is put on ventilator and risks losing an eye following attack by Iran-sympathiser
- Author Sir Salman Rushdie, 75, was stabbed up to 15 times, including in the neck and in the abdomen
- Rushdie’s agent Andrew Wylie provided an update on his condition shortly before 7 p.m. on Friday night
- Wylie said ‘Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was damaged’
- Rushdie was attacked by Hadi Matar, 24, who rushed the stage at the event before ‘punching and stabbing’ the author multiple times in front of horrified witnesses at a literary fair in Chautauqua, New York, near Buffalo
- Rushdie wrote the Satanic Verses, which sparked in a culture war in 1988 in Britain, leading to deadly riots
- The novelist was issued a fatwa by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989 and went into hiding for years
New video footage shows the moment audience members tackled a knifeman moments after he stabbed Salman Rushdie on stage in New York, as the author remains on a ventilator and risks losing an eye today.
In the three minute clip, people can be heard screaming and gasping while a dozen audience members rush to the stage and crowd around the attacker who had been taken to the ground by a police officer.
Meanwhile, just meters away, several audience members also appear to surround the author and help treat him behind a banner for the event as concerned guests look on.
The video was shared by an attendee of the CHQ 2022 event in Chautauqua, New York, who said he started filming 10 seconds after the attack began in which witnesses described a masked man storming the stage and appearing to strike Rushdie repeatedly before he was tackled.
The audience members applaud and cheer as it appears Rushdie is helped off stage before later being stretchered to an air ambulance and rushed to hospital where he received emergency surgery.
His condition was updated by his agent Andrew Wylie who said: ‘The news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.’
Rushdie suffered injuries to the neck and abdomen during the CHQ 2022 event in Chautauqua, near Buffalo, on Friday morning.
An event organiser addressed the remaining guests and instructed them to evacuate the auditorium calmly and take all belongings with them, warning that any items left will be confiscated.
Authorities descended on the Fairview, New Jersey home of 24-year-old suspect Hadi Matar hours after he allegedly attacked Rushdie onstage at the literary event in upstate New York.
Matar, who police say gained access to the grounds with a pass, managed to walk off the stage before being restrained, as people rushed to assist Rushdie.
Law enforcement sources told The New York Post that an initial investigation suggests Matar is sympathetic to the Iranian regime and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, although he was born around nine years after the fatwa against Rushdie was first issued.
Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, a co-founder of an organization that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, was also attacked. He and Rushdie were due to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile.
Reese was released from a hospital on Friday afternoon and in an emailed statement to the New York Times, he called Rushdie ‘one of the great defenders of freedom of speech and freedom of creative expression,’ then added: ‘The fact that this attack could occur in the United States is indicative of the threats to writers from many governments and from many individuals and organizations.
This is the moment audience members rushed to help detain a knifeman moments after he attacked author Salman Rushdie
New video footage (pictured above) shows the moment several brave audience members tackled a knifeman moments after he stabbed author Salman Rushdie on stage in New York, as the 75-year-old remains on a ventilator and risks losing an eye
Audience members could be heard screaming and gasping as commotion erupted on stage at the literary event in New York
It appears Rushdie is helped off stage (centre), although this is not confirmed, before he is stretchered to the air ambulance
On stage at the lecture theatre: Man thought to be Sir Salman Rushdie is seen on the left at the the Chautauqua Institution
Helpers cradle the wounded author: Satanic Verse author Salman Rushdie is helped by people after he was stabbed on stage
Suspect held down on stage: An officer and another man are seen holding someone down on the stage – thought to be Matar
Suspect, Matar, is seen on the left being manhandled away by men while a group gather round wounded Rushdie to the right
He is taken away by police: The man is put into a cop car and is still in custody after the attack on Salman Rushdie
Meanwhile, it has been claimed the man accused of stabbing Rushdie held a fake driver’s license bearing the surname of an infamous Hezbollah commander.
British-born Booker Prize winning author Sir Salman Rushdie (pictured in 2019) got death threats and was issued a fatwah by Iran for his 1988 novel, the Satanic Verses. He has lived in the U.S. since 2000 and was today preparing to give a lecture about America being a haven for writers in exile
That driver’s license, which was was found on 24-year-old Hadi Mater bore the name Hassan Mughniyah. Both the first and second names are linked to infamous terrorist organization Hezbollah. The group’s current leader is named Hassan Nasrallah. While one of the group’s most notorious figures was Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a CIA-linked assassination in Syria in 2008.
NBC New York reports that Mater’s social media accounts showed that he was sympathetic to Shia causes, including supporting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Since the 1980s, the IRGC have been linked to Hezbollah, offering training and funding to the primarily Lebanon-based terrorist organization. Hezbollah’s logo is based on the IRGC’s.
According to the Council on Foreign Relation’s profile on Hezbollah: ‘The Iran-backed group is driven by its opposition to Israel and its resistance to Western influence in the Middle East.’
Witnesses to the stabbing say that the suspect wore black clothing and a black mask during the attack on The Satanic Verses author in Buffalo on Friday.
Authorities descended on the Fairview, New Jersey home of 24-year-old Hadi Matar hours after he allegedly attacked Rushdie onstage at a literary event in upstate New York.
The driver’s license also included a reference to an address in West New York, New Jersey, less than three miles from his listed address in Fairview, New Jersey.
Matar had fake driving license in name of HEZBOLLAH commander and praised Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on social media
Salman Rushdie, 75, was attacked by a man who approached him from behind before stabbing him multiple times. The suspect, pictured with Sheriff deputies, was quickly pinned to the floor before being arrested
Pictured: A group of people rushed to assist the author after the attack, with the attacker being restrained by witnesses
Pictured: The author’s suspected attacker was pinned down by witnesses and security staff moments after the attack
The Algemeiner reports that a Twitter account linked to the Iranian state media, ‘Iran in Arabic,’ posted a photo of Matar next to a picture of Salman Rushdie with the words: ‘Lebanese hero who stabbed Satan Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, in which he insulted the Prophet of guidance and mercy, the Messenger of God, Muhammad.’
Rushdie’s friend and supporter Baroness D’Souza says ‘threat has been there forever’
Former House of Lords speaker and cross-party peer Baroness D’Souza has said the attack on Sir Salman Rushdie has been ‘a long time coming’.
Baroness D’Souza launched a decade-long campaign in support of the writer after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Rushdie and has remained close friends with Rushdie.
Speaking to Times Radio, she said: ‘I’d have to say that I think there’ll be many, many people who are not as shocked as we should be. This has been a long time coming, but the fatwa has never been rescinded, it couldn’t be rescinded because Ayatollah Khomeini died and it died with him as well.
‘It can’t be rescinded. And I suspect that in the world in which we now live where any filler, which is perceived against a fanatical Islamic minority is to be punished with violence is almost the norm.
‘Let us remember, for example, that Charlie Hebdo, killing off 12 people in 2015, simply for publishing the cartoon which depicted the profit.
‘So even though Salman himself fought a very courageous battle, not to allow censorship to prevail, not to allow the Fatwa to suppress him or his work – and he did that very courageously for a very long time – in fact, I’m not sure that the battle has been won. […] I was not as shocked as some people are, because the threat has been there forever.
‘And as I have said previously, that in the many, many, many, many long evenings I spent with someone and with friends and with other writers in the past, there are people who felt that the only way this would end is if he were attacked. And it has come to pass.’
According to the Daily Beast, Mater moved from California to New Jersey in 2014. Matar attended the Elizabeth Learning Center in Cudahy, California, just outside of Los Angeles.
A classmate of the suspect, Gabriel Sanchez, told the website that Matar was a ‘very devout Muslim’.
He added: ‘He took it seriously and did the washing of the feet in our high school restroom.’
Sanchez went on: ‘The only time I ever saw him get “heated” when it came to anything was with our AP Bio teacher at the end of the year where he wrote in his evaluation of the class that he hated how he talked about religion.’
He continued: ‘He was a devout Muslim and one of the few things that I remember talking to him about was kindness. That’s how I remember him and why I wish this isn’t him.’
Rushdie’s novel was viewed as blasphemous by many Muslims in the 1980s, and at least 45 people were killed in riots over the book, leading to it being banned in Iran, where the late leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, calling for Rushdie’s death.
The death threats and bounty led Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government-funded protection program, until he emerged after nine years of seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism overall. He has been in the United States since 2000.
The attack occurred at the Chautauqua Institution, which hosts arts programs in a tranquil lakeside community 70 miles south of Buffalo.
Carl LeVan, an American University politics professor attending the event, told AFP he saw the suspect run onto the stage where Rushdie was seated and ‘stabbed him repeatedly and viciously.’
LeVan, a Chautauqua regular, said the suspect ‘was trying to stab him as many times as possible before he was subdued,’ adding that he believed the man ‘was trying to kill’ Rushdie.
‘There were gasps of horror and panic from the crowd,’ the professor said.
LeVan said witnessing the event had left him ‘shaken,’ adding he considered Chautauqua a safe place of creative freedom.
‘To know that this happened here, and to see it — it was horrific,’ he said. ‘What I saw today was the essence of intolerance.’
Rushdie was airlifted to hospital after receiving medical assistance from those at the event near Buffalo, in Upstate New York
Medics rushed to the scene to take the author to hospital to treat his injuries. A Chautauqua Institution spokesperson, where the event was taking place, said: ‘We are dealing with an emergency situation. I can share no further details at this time.’
State Trooper James O’Callaghan gave an update Friday evening following the stabbing
Another witness, John Stein, told ABC that the assailant ‘started stabbing on the right side of the head, of the neck. And there was blood… erupting.’
Blood was spattered on the wall behind where Rushdie had been attacked, with some also seen on a chair that he had been sitting on.
Governor Kathy Hochul called the attack on Rushdie ‘heartbreaking’ before confirming that he is ‘alive’, during and unrelated press conference.
She added that he is ‘getting the care he needs at a local hospital’, and that a state police trooper ‘stood up and saved his life’ after the attack.
Hochul said that Rushdie had ‘spent decades speaking truth to power’.
One witness told the New York Times that Rushdie had been stabbed ‘multiple times’ and was lying in a pool of his own blood.
Rita Landman offered her assistance after the incident, adding that he appeared to be alive and did not receive CPR.
Landman said: ‘People were saying, ‘He has a pulse, he has a pulse he has a pulse.’
Police car parked outside UPMC Hamot Surgery Center in Erie, Pennsylvania, where author Salman Rushdie gets treatment
Pictured: A view from the house of attack suspect 24-year-old Hadi Matar, as FBI members and police carry out a search
Pictured: An FBI agent is pictured entering the house of Salman Rushdie attack suspect 24-year-old Hadi Matar
Roger Warner of Cleveland, Ohio, was sitting on the front row when the attack took place, adding: ‘He was covered with blood and there was blood running down onto the floor.
‘I just saw blood all around his eyes and running down his cheek.’
Rushdie’s London-based son Zafar, 42, is aware of the incident and his father has been seen being transported by air ambulance after the attack.
Thousands of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were then evacuated as his alleged attacker was taken into custody.
John Bulette, 85, who witnessed the attack said: ‘There was a huge security lapse. That somebody could get that close without any intervention was frightening.’
An usher at the amphitheater claims that the security at the Institution was ‘lax’ and that no additional measures were in place for Mr Rushdie’s visit.
Kyle Doershuk, 20, said: ‘It’s very open, it’s very accessible, it’s a very relaxed environment, in my opinion something like this was just waiting to happen.’
A Chautauqua Institution spokesperson added: ‘We are dealing with an emergency situation. I can share no further details at this time.’
Rabbi Charles Savenor claims that the entire attack lasted around 20 seconds.
He said: ‘This guy ran on to platform and started pounding on Mr. Rushdie. At first you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’
And then it became abundantly clear in a few seconds that he was being beaten.’
A representative for the Iranian interests section at the embassy of Pakistan in Washington D.C. declined to comment on the attack.
The embassy diplomatically represents the government of Iran in the United States.
They told the New York Times ‘we are not getting involved in this’, before hanging up and refusing to give a name.
Senator George Borrello branded the attack as ‘shocking’ adding that there is ‘no room’ for ‘beliefs that demand that you kill someone who disagrees with you’.
He added: ‘This shocking attack on a celebrated and noted author, apparently prompted by fundamentalist extremism, has no place in America.’
Rushdie was attacked on stage ahead of his speech in Chautauqua, with witnesses claiming he was ‘punched and stabbed’
Pictured: Blood was spattered on the wall behind where Rushdie had been attacked, with some also seen on a chair
Medics attended to Rushdie after the attack, with witnesses saying a man ‘punched and stabbed’ the author as he was announced on stage
Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie spent years in hiding after being issued ‘spiritual’ death threat by Iran
Sir Salman Rushdie is a Booker Prize-winning author and novelist.
The 75-year-old was born in India, and his writing is often based around the themes of connections and migrations between Western and Eastern civilizations.
He won the Booker Prize in 1981 for his second novel, Midnight’s Children. His writing has spawned 30 book-length studies, and over 700 articles on his writing.
Rushdie’s writings have broadly been acclaimed to the genres of magical realism and historical fiction.
He has been living in the US since 2000, and he was named a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University in 2015.
He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, including for Midnight’s Children, in 1983 for Shame, in 1988 for The Satanic Versus, in 1995 for The Moor’s Last Sign, and in 2019 for Quichotte.
Rushdie, 75, is an Indian-born acclaimed author and novelist
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend.
‘Right now my thoughts are with his loved ones. We are all hoping he is okay.’
Author Ian McEwan issued a statement about Rushdie, saying: ‘This appalling attack on my dear friend Salman represents an assault on freedom of thought and speech.
‘These are the freedoms that underpin all our rights and liberties.
‘Salman has been an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world.
‘He is a fiery and generous spirit, a man of immense talent and courage, and he will not be deterred.’
The author was knighted in 2007 in Britain ‘for services to literature’ by his friend, then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
His last piece of writing was about an assassination attempt, serializing a novella called The Seventh Wave on Sub Stack, which appeared to focus on spies and assassinations.
Rushdie has previously received death threats for his writing, with his book the Satanic Verses which supposedly insulted the Prophet Mohammed and The Koran.
He wrote the Satanic Verses, which resulted in a culture war being sparked in 1988 in Britain – with protests taking place in the UK along with book burnings.
Pakistan banned the book, and he was issued a fatwa – a death sentence – by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989.
Khomeini called for the death of Rushdie and his publishers, and also called for Muslims to point him out to those who could kill him if they could not themselves.
The fatwa, or ‘spiritual opinion’, followed a wave of book burnings in Britain and rioting across the Muslim world which led to the deaths of 60 people and hundreds being injured.
Rushdie was put under round-the-clock security from 1989 to 2002, at the expense of the British taxpayer, when a $3million bounty was put on his head.
He was forced to go into hiding for a decade with police protection, and previously said he received a ‘sort of Valentines card’ from Iran each year letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him.
In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
After the attack Rushdie, who moved to the US in 2000, was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest.
The author previously complained about having ‘too much’ security while attending other events.
He told reporters a the Prague Writer’s Festival: ‘To be here and to find a large security operation around me has actually felt a little embarrassing.
‘I thought it was really unnecessary and kind of excessive and was certainly not arranged on my request.
‘I spent a great deal of time before I came here saying that I really didn’t want that.
‘So I was very surprised to arrive here and discover a really quite substantial operation, because it felt like being in a time warp, that I had gone back in time several years.’
Rushdie is a former president of PEN America, with their current CEO Suzanne Nossel issuing a statement which said: ‘PEN America is reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former President and stalwart ally, Salman Rushdie, who was reportedly stabbed multiple times while on stage speaking at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York.
‘We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil.
‘Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning Salman had emailed me to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge from the grave perils they face.
Police remain on the scene at the Chautauqua Institution after Rushdie was flown to hospital via air ambulance on Friday
Onlookers rushed to the stage to try to apprehend the suspect, and help Rushdie after he was attacked in front of hundreds
Salmn Rushdie was urgently taken to hospital via air ambulance, and is currently on a ventilator and at risk of losing an eye
His agent, Andrew Wylie, said that the author was currently in surgery for his injuries, but did not have an update on his condition
The Seventh Wave: Rushdie’s last published work focused on spies and assassinations
Salman Rushdie was serializing a novella called The Seventh Wave, on Sub Stack, which appeared to have a heavy focus on spies and organized killings.
His latest piece of writing referenced men in ‘sodden balaclavas’:
The four men in black wearing sodden balaclavas are out in the open, closing in. ANNA and FRANCIS are on the terrace of the house, holding guns.
FIRST MAN (shouting)
Come down, Anna, Nobody gonna hurt you. And the other individual we don’t require.
ANNA (shouting back)
Hello, boys! Would you like a refreshing drink?
(They come closer.)
SECOND MAN (also shouting)
Don’t you crack wise now, Anna. No, we do not need no fucking drink. Maybe you didn’t notice it’s wet out.
ANNA (still shouting)
We have towels. You need to dry your hair?
They are within range now. This is too easy. We can take them all.
I don’t know, Anna. I can’t do it.
Credit: Sub Stack
‘Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered. He has devoted tireless energy to assisting others who are vulnerable and menaced.
‘While we do not know the origins or motives of this savage attack, all those around the world who have met words with violence or called for the same are culpable for legitimizing this an assault on a writer while he was engaged in his essential work of connecting to readers.
‘Our thoughts and passions now lie with our dauntless Salman, wishing him a full and speedy recovery.
‘We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.’
Hitoshi Igarashi, who translated The Satanic Verses into Japanese for Rushdie, was stabbed to death on the campus where he taught literature.
Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator of the book, was knifed in his apartment in Milan.
The novel’s Norwegian publisher William Nygaard, was shot three times outside his home and left for dead in October 1993, but survived the attack.
In Turkey, the book’s translator, Aziz Nesin, was the target of an arson attack on a hotel that killed 37.
Rushdie previously wrote a 655-page fatwa memoir, which was nominated for the UK’s top non- fiction award, the Samuel Johnson prize.
During the fatwa he lived in permanent terror and at one point thought his ex-wife Clarissa Luard and their son Zafar, who was nine at the time, had been killed by assassins or kidnapped.
In 1998 Iran’s reformist president relaxed the fatwa and said it had no intention of tracking Rushdie down and killing him.
Technically it still stands but is unlikely to be enforced.
The Index on Censorship, an organization promoting free expression, said money was raised to boost the reward for his killing as recently as 2016, underscoring that the fatwa for his death still stands.
He has has two children from his four marriages – his other son is called Milan – but has been linked with many other women including Indian model Riya Sen.
Prince Charles also reportedly refused to support the author during his fatwa because he thought the book was offensive to Muslims.
In an article for Vanity Fair magazine, Martin Amis claimed that the Prince’s views caused a row at a dinner party after Rushdie was issued with the death sentence by Islamic clerics in 1989.
Amis claims that Charles told him that he would not offer support ‘if someone insults someone else’s deepest convictions’.
Amis remonstrated with him but all Charles did was ‘take it on board’, even though Rushdie is a British-Indian citizen.
Fellow author Stephen King also refused to let stores in America sell his books if they refused to carry The Satanic Verses.
Rushdie has spoken at the Chautauqua Institution before, which is based about 55 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York.
It is known for its summertime lecture series.
Rushdie has been married four times and had a string of high-profile romances that included Padma Lakshmi, Olivia Wide, and models decades younger than him.
He met his first wife, Clarissa Luard, at a pop concert in the UK in 1969, with the couple marrying in 1976 and having their son Zafar three years later.
Although they divorced in 1987, they remained close friends, and Rushdie reportedly stayed by her side when she died from breast cancer at age 50 in 1999.
Rushdie has been married four times, including to Elizabeth West Salman, pictured. The couple married in 1994 and two had a son, Milan, in 1999
Rushdie attributed his intellect and ‘good looks’ for his successful love life, which included dates with Oliva Wilde (left). The two were pictured together at the Washington Correspondents Dinner in 2008
Salman Rushdie (right) together with his fourth wife, model and Top Chef host Padma Lakshimi attending the Cannes Film Festival in 2004
By the time Luard passed, Rushdie had already been married twice. He tied the knot Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins, an American, in 1988 and then to editor Elizabeth West in 1997.
Rushdie was with Wiggins when he faced backlash over The Satanic Verses, with Rushdie saying that he heard criticisms that his ‘Jewish wife’ made him write it.
‘At its most unpleasant it was levelled at me from the Islamic side that the Jews made me do it,’ Rushdie said. ‘They said my [second] wife was Jewish. She wasn’t, she was American.’
Wiggins spent some time in hiding even after the couple divorced in 1993, and the following year, Rushdie married Elizabeth West, and the two had a son, Milan, in 1999.
Rushdie had previously said that he and West, an author and editor, began growing apart when he wanted to move to the US and she wanted to stay in the UK and have another child.
Following a miscarriage, the couple officially split in 2004. After the split from West, Rushdie immediately dove into the world of pop celebrities, marrying model turned Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi in 2004.
The two had met back in 1999 at a lavish New York City party thrown by media queen Tina Brown. Lakshmi alleges that the two had an affair during the party, and that Rushdie promised to be with her once his rocky marriage to West concludes.
Rushdie’s 2001 novel, Fury, was dedicated to Lakshmi. At the time of the wedding, Lakshmi was 28, while Rushdie was 51.
While Rushdie’s previous marriages lasted more than a decade, his union with Lakshmi only lasted three years, with the novelist bemoaning her in his memoir as a ‘bad investment’ who overly narcissistic and ambitious.
Lakshmi hit back at Rushdie in her own memoirs, calling him ‘sexually needy’ and insensitive to her endometriosis.
How Salman Rushdie lived under the shadow of a fatwa for 30 years: British author went into hiding when Iran’s spiritual leader ordered he was killed for ‘blasphemous’ The Satanic Verses but he was living a ‘normal life’ in New York before his stabbing
BY JACK WRIGHT
He was first forced into hiding more than 30 years ago by Iran’s theocratic dictatorship after the regime branded The Satanic Verses a work of blasphemy.
From ever-changing safe houses, constant armed guards and a new identity, to finally finding a new home in the US, British author Salman Rushdie has now been stabbed in the neck on stage in New York – the supposed beating heart of free speech and culture.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of the Islamic republic, issued a fatwa – or religious ruling – calling on all Muslims to murder the celebrated atheist author and anyone involved in the publication of The Satanic Verses on February 14, 1989.
Rushdie, now 75, was forced to live under the long shadow the fatwa cast until it was finally lifted by Iran’s hardline regime in 1998.
But for nine years, the writer constantly between safe houses and was protected by round-the-clock armed guards. He even adopted an alias, Joseph Anton – a combination of the first names of two of his favourite writers, Conrad and Chekhov.
The fatwa also led to the murder of the book’s Japanese translator Hitoshi Igarashi, the targeting of its translators and publishers in Turkey, Norway and Italy, and worldwide riots and book-burnings – while The Satanic Verses itself was banned in many countries.
Sir Salman Rushdie holding a copy of The Satanic Verses during a 1992 news conference in Arlington
Speaking about the controversy with the Mail, Sir Salman said: ‘Being under the fatwa was a jail, but I think that one of the problems is that from the outside it looked glamorous, as I sometimes showed up in places in Jags with people jumping out to open the door and make sure you get in safely and so on. Looks of who the hell does he think he is? Well, from my side it felt like jail.
‘There was this crude argument that I did it in some way for personal advantage, to make myself more famous or to make money. At its most unpleasant it was levelled at me from the Islamic side that the Jews made me do it. They said my [second] wife was Jewish. She wasn’t, she was American.
‘If I had simply wanted to trade on an insult to Islam I could have done it in a sentence rather than writing a 250,000-word novel, a work of fiction.’
Muslim activists beat a burning effigy of Salman Rushdie in New Delhi
‘What you have to remember is that The Satanic Verses is not called Islam the Prophet, it is not called Mohammed, the country is not called Arabia – it all happens in the dream of somebody who is losing their mind.’
What still shocks him is that no radical Muslims in Britain who backed the call for his assassination were ever prosecuted.
‘There were these occasions, like in Manchester, where Muslim leaders said to their congregation, ‘Tell me who in this audience would be ready to kill Rushdie?’ and everyone in the audience raised their hand. And the police thought this was OK.’
He says: ‘Supposing I had been the Queen and an imam said to his congregation, ‘Who would be ready to kill the Queen?’ and everybody raised their hand. Would you think the police would not act?
‘I only use the Queen as an example to dramatize this but it seems odd that when it is a novelist of foreign origin, therefore not completely British in some way, that it was allowed to happen with impunity.’
Rushdie remembers his split from his wife Marianne as being a particularly traumatic time. She claimed that the CIA was aware of Rushdie’s whereabouts and so his cover was blown. When he realized that she was lying he decided to end the relationship.
‘It was very shocking. There simply was a point at which I had to choose whether to be alone in the middle of this hurricane with nobody there for companionship or whether I somehow had to put up with this person in whom it was difficult to have faith.
‘It was horrifying to be told by a policeman that they believed that your wife was lying to you. It is an experience most of us don’t have. And then for her to say that it was the police who were to be blamed and that I shouldn’t trust them sets a kind of mindf*** and I had to make my judgments.
‘It became impossible for me to have faith in her veracity. So in the end I thought it was better to separate.’
In an interview three years ago, he said: ‘Islam was not a thing. No one was thinking in that way. One of the things that has happened is that people in the West are more informed than they used to be’.
He ruefully added: ‘I was 41 back then, now I am 71. Things are fine now. We live in a world where the subject changes very fast. And this is a very old subject. There are now many other things to be frightened about – and other people to kill’.