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AUTHOR Salman Rushdie was stabbed on stage by a man on Friday years after he received death threats and a bounty of $3million was placed on his head.

Rushdie, a British citizen, was born a Muslim in India but courted controversy when he left the faith and began to question it publicly.

Salman Rushdie (pictured) has received a lot of criticism including death threats from the Muslim countries after the release of his book The Satanic Verses in 1988Credit: Getty
Rushdie had been reportedly stabbed on stage before a lecture at Chautauqua on FridayCredit: AP
The biggest threat came from the late Ayatollah Khomeini, who placed a bounty over $3 million on Rushdie's head and inspired others to respect his wishes after his deathCredit: AFP

The publication of his book The Satanic Verses in 1988 caused an uproar among some Muslims, especially those in predominantly Muslim countries.

Some Muslims saw Rushdie's depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad as disrespectful.

The book was burned and banned in roughly a dozen countries, according to NPR.

The most extreme reaction came from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's late leader, who thought the book was blasphemous and insulting to Muslims.

Khomeini sent out a fatwa, or order, calling for Rushdie's death in exchange for over $3million during a broadcast on Radio Tehran on Feburary 14, 1989.

Rushdie went into hiding after this threat. It took nine years and the death of Khomeini for Iran to backtrack from the late leader's words.

In 1998 Iranian officials said they would "neither support nor hinder assassination operations on Rushdie."

However, independent actors have reportedly pooled money together to call for a new bounty worth nearly $4million.

A wealthy Iranian religious organization offered a total of $3.3 million as of 2012 for anyone willing to carry out Khomeini's wishes.

Others have also contributed to the pot since 2016 - 40 news outlets to be exact.

“These media outlets have set the $600,000 bounty on the 27th anniversary of the historical fatwa to show it is still alive,” Mansour Amiri, organizer of a digital technology exhibition at which the money was announced, told Reuters.

In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir titled Joseph Anton, which was the fake name he used while in hiding, about the bounty sent out by the late Ayatollah.

It is unclear when Rushdie eventually came out of hiding.

However, when explaining his decision to come out of hiding, Rushdie told the French press: “I don’t want to live hidden away.

“I was 41 back then, now I am 71. Things are fine now,” he said, according to the Hindustan Times.

The now-75-year-old author said: "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," according to the outlet.

Since his resurgence, Rushdie has been a public supporter of artistic freedom.

He even made a public statement after 12 people in Paris were killed by suspected Muslim extremists back in 2015, NPR reported.

Eight of those killed were journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The statement read: "I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.

"'Respect for religion' has become a code phrase meaning 'fear of religion.' Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect."

However, it's unclear how much of an impact Khomeini's threat had, after Rushdie was allegedly stabbed on stage by Hadi Matar, 24, before giving a lecture on Friday at the Chautauqua Institution in New York.

Matar, of New Jersey, had a pass to access the event and is currently in custody. State Police said they recovered a backpack at the scene as well as electronic devices.

The 24-year-old allegedly stormed the stage and began attacking Rushdie - who was scheduled to speak alongside author Henry Reese.

Rushdie is now on a ventilator and is suffering from severed nerves and a damaged liver due to the stabbing, his agent Andrew Wylie told the New York Times.

John Mulherin, 80, a retired attorney from Glen Ellyn, Illinois who was attending the event, told The Sun that a “dead silence” came over the audience following the attack.

He was taking a call when the onslaught began but rushed back in to see how the attacker had been apprehended and Rushdie was attended to on stage.

He said: “Salman Rushdie had just come out and there was a huge round of applause.

“He was just settling in to speak and had just sat down for a question and answer session.

“Immediately after they sat down a man came out from the left of the stage and stabbed him," he said.

Mulherin explained: "The man was immediately restrained and there was a commotion of people on the stage attending to Mr Rushdie.

"My understanding is that there wasn’t an ambulance present at the event.

“Mr Rushdie was airlifted to a regional hospital," Mulherin said.

The witness recalled a conversation with another attendee.

“I couldn’t see from where I was sitting but I spoke with a woman who was closer and she saw blood on the floor," he said.

Mulherin continued: “He was stabbed in the neck which is so dangerous, as you know.

“There was a dead silence in the audience after the attack that was just palpable. Just real concern.

“A person came to the microphone and asked everyone to evacuate the auditorium.

“Mr Rushdie was rushed to the tennis court where the ambulance helicopter had landed and airlifted to the hospital.

“When we were asked to evacuate he was still prone so I can’t say if he walked off the stage.

“There’s police all over the place here now, a little too late.

“I heard there was just one state trooper providing security which is totally inadequate.

The witness was shocked by the incident. He said, “There’s a sense here that it’s a bit of a utopia, it’s about $1,000 to attend a week plus accommodation, there’s families and a lot of seniors."

“It’s a gated community and attendees have to wear a lanyard with their name on it , so it’s a place where you would not expect anything like this to happen.

“The attacker could have walked up and bought a day ticket for about $100 to $120 so it’s not difficult to attend.

“This was clearly a well-planned attack by a deranged individual," he said.

Rushdie's condition is unknown at this time, but, Andrew Wylie, a spokesperson for Rushdie, told Reuters that "Salman is in surgery."

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said, Rushdie was alive and "getting the care he needs," according to Reuters.

The news of this attack comes at a time where the relations between the United States and Iran have already been tense.

An Iranian-American journalist was targeted on July 29 by a man with an AK-47 assault rifle in a kidnapping attempt that has been reportedly planned by an Iranian intelligence network.

Just two days ago, an Iranian military operative was charged after he planned to murder former National Security Adviser John Bolton back in October of 2021.

The murder plot was reportedly mounted in retaliation for the US military killing of Qassem Soleimani, head of the terrorist organization The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

There is currently a $4 million bounty on Rushdie's head after followers wanted to support the late Ayatollah's wishesCredit: AFP