Salman Rushdie Embodied Freedom: Shashi Tharoor, Taslima Nasreen, Others React

Rushdie, who wrote the controversial book Satanic Verses, was stabbed ahead of a lecture in New York.

5 min read
Hindi Female
Edited By :Karan Mahadik

Following the attack on Indian-origin British author Salman Rushdie in New York on Friday, 12 August, several writers and politicians decried the incident as an "attack on freedom of speech everywhere."

Rushdie, who wrote the controversial book The Satanic Verses, was attacked ahead of a lecture in western New York by a 24-year-old man identified as Hadi Matar, who hopped onto the stage and stabbed him.

While the suspect has been taken into custody, the author is undergoing treatment.

He will "likely lose one eye. The nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” the writer's agent Andrew Wylie was quoted as saying by The New York Times.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor took to Twitter to react to the incident, saying he was "utterly shocked and horrified."


"Utterly horrified & shocked by the stabbing of Salman Rushdie. Wish him a speedy & complete recovery from his wounds, even though, with a sinking heart, I recognize that life for him can never be the same again," he tweeted.

Calling it a sad day, Tharoor goes on to say that it is made worse ïf creative expression can no longer be free and open."

Meanwhile Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan was quoted by The Indian Express as condemning the attack, and pointing out:

"In a civilised society, there is no room for violence or taking the law in one’s own hands. This heinous act deserves severe condemnation.Violence in the name of blasphemy is reprehensible and violates basic scriptural teachings that prescribe to ‘turn away from vain talk and say: To us our deeds and to you yours: Peace be on you, we seek not engagement with ignorant.”

'His Fight Is Our Fight': Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson React

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet, "For 33 years, Salman 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."

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacted to the incident as well and 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."

Former UK chancellor Rishi Sunak also took to Twitter and said, “Shocked to hear of the attack on Salman Rushdie in New York. A champion of free speech and artistic freedom. He's in our thoughts tonight."

Calling the attack "disgraceful", UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, “Disgraceful attack on Sir Salman Rushdie. People must be able to speak freely and freedom of speech must be defended. My thoughts are with him, his family and loved ones."

National Security Advisor to the US President, James Sullivan put out a statement hours after the attack saying, "Today, the country and the world witnessed a reprehensible attack against the writer Salman Rushdie. This act of violence is appalling."

"All of us in the Biden-Harris Administration are praying for his speedy recovery. We are thankful to good citizens and first responders for helping Mr. Rushdie so quickly after the attack and to law enforcement for its swift and effective work, which is ongoing."
James Sullivan, National Security Advisor to the US President, quoted by PTI

'Terrible Day for Literature': Writers Speak Out

Author Taslima Nasreen, who has been in exile for around three decades after her book Lajja sparked outrage in Bangladesh, said that anyone who was critical of Islam "can be attacked."

"If he is attacked, anyone who is critical of Islam can be attacked. I am worried, " she tweeted.

Author Stephen King reacted to the incident and said in a tweet, "I hope Salman Rushdie is okay."


Wajahat Ali, who is known for his book Go Back To Where You Came From, said that the attack was an example of "unhinged men wanting to police the world through violence."

"Salman Rushdie stabbed today. FBI attacked yesterday. I fear these examples of violence will only keep escalating with polarization, disinformation and extremism going mainstream," he added.

Further, Indian lyricist Javed Akhtar demanded that the police should take strict action against the attacker.

"I condemn the barbaric attack on Salman Rushdie by some fanatic. I hope that NY police and the court will take the strongest action possible against the attacker," he tweeted.

'Feeling Numb': Indian Authors React to the News

Indian authors too took to twitter to express their remorse at the incident.

"Salman has lived with more courage than most realise, for all these years," said Nilanjana Roy in a Tweet, adding, "This is hard to take in, but hoping the doctors can work miracles. Getting off Twitter for a bit."

Historian and writer S irfan Habib also took to Twitter to react to the news and wish Rushdie a quick recovery "after this cowardly attack." "Despite several years of living in fear, Salman Rushdie had almost reconciled with the conditions he had to live rest of his life. He stayed courageous and creative all these years," he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Westland Books' Karthika VK reacted to the incident saying she was "feeling numb." "What is this world we live in?" she went on to write while wishing Rushdie a speedy recovery.

The Prophet Prached Peace: Sr Member of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board Condemns Attack on Rushdie

Senior member of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali, said, "Prophet Mohammed always gave the message of peace and hence, Muslims should take the path shown by Him."

According to PTI, he also stated that no one has the right to take law into his hand and the attack on controversial writer Salman Rushdie can't be termed as correct.


The 75-year-old author is currently on a ventilator and could lose an eye, according to his agent.

Meanwhile, New York state police have identified his attacker, Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from New Jersey.

He suffered multiple stab wounds and was transported by helicopter to a hospital.

The Satanic Verses, which has been called "blasphemous" for being critical of Islam, had led to death threats against Rushdie on multiple occasions. The author had to go into hiding for nearly 10 years as a result.

Meanwhile, historian William Dalrymple took to Twitter to say that this was a "terrible day for literature."

"A terrible day for literature, for freedom of speech and for authors everywhere. Poor poor Salman: I pray he's not hurt and recovers quickly," he said.

What Is 'The Satanic Verses' Controversy?

The Satanic Verses, the novel that Rushdie is best known for, is what led to death threats being issued against him.

It went on to get banned in several nations for the way he wrote about Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

The then leader of Iran, late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death and the killing of his publishers for insulting Prophet Muhammad. The author, who went into hiding for nearly 10 years following the controversy, was accused of misusing his freedom of speech.

While Rushdie had managed to escape physical harm so far, the Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses, Hitoshi Igarashi, was stabbed to death in 1991; the book's Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was seriously injured in a stabbing in the same year, and Norwegian publisher William Nygaard was shot three times in an attempted assassination in 1993 but he survived.

The book has remained banned in several nations around the world, with India banning it before Iran. In 2015, Congress leader P Chidambaram accepted that banning the book had been "wrong."

Rushdie's first novel, Midnight's Children, won the Booker Prize in 1981 and was deemed to be "the best novel of all winners" on two occasions.

(Written with inputs from AP, PTI, and New York Times)

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