A New Jersey man has been arrested in the attack on author Salman Rushdie at Chautauqua Institution.
New York State Police say 24-year old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey was arrested after they say he ran onto the Amphitheater Stage and attacked Rushdie as well as guest speaker 73-year old Henry Reese. Rushdie suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck and was transported by helicopter to an Erie, Pennsylvania hospital.
Police say the 75-year old author is in surgery and his condition is unknown. Reese suffered a minor head injury and was treated and released.
A state trooper assigned to the event immediately took the suspect into custody. Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt is assisting with the investigation and criminal charges are pending. Police do not have a motive at this time and believe Matar was acting alone.
A search warrant has been requested for a backpack and digital device belonging to Matar.
Chautauqua Institution President Michael Hill said this is an incident unlike anything in the institution’s nearly 150 year history, “We were founded to bring people together in community to learn, and in doing so, to create solutions through action. To develop empathy and to take on intractable problems. Today now, we’re called to take on fear and the worst of all human traits – hate. Our job right now, though, is to continue to support police and others. To be a resource for Mr. Rushdie and Mr. Reece’s family and to begin to imagine a pathway to healing.”
Hill confirmed that Rushdie did not bring a security team with him but that the Institution had met with State Police prior to the beginning of the season, “We assess for every event what we think the appropriate security level is and this one was certainly one that we thought was important, which is why we had a state trooper and sheriff present there. We will assess for each of the events at the Institution, what we think the appropriate level of security is and that’s an ongoing process that we work in concert with local law enforcement on.”
While all programs were canceled at the Institution and in Jamestown on Friday, Hill said it is their intention to continue the season. There are two weeks of programming left in the Institution’s 9-week season.
Rushdie wrote Satanic Verses. Published in 1988, the author said the book was inspired by the Prophet Mohammed. In 1989, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran and a Shiite scholar, issued a fatwa calling for the death of Rushdie and his publishers.
Governor Kathy Hochul issued remarks on the incident,
State Senator George Borrello also released a statement condemning the attack, saying, “This shocking attack on a celebrated and noted author, apparently prompted by fundamentalist extremism, has no place in America,” Sen. Borrello said. “The Founding Fathers fled tyranny and knew all too well the dangers of absolutism and religious zealotry. There is no room, in a free society, for beliefs that demand that you kill someone who disagrees with you.”
Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel issued a statement,
“On behalf of all Chautauqua County residents, I extend my thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Salman Rushdie.
The small tranquil community of the Chautauqua Institution has been shaken to its core by an act of violence, which has reverberated across Chautauqua County and Western New York. It is disappointing that we live in a society where we cannot listen to the differences of others, especially in a place like the Institution where thinkers and problem solvers from around the world come to share their stories.
I thank all of the emergency and law enforcement agencies who have done a tremendous job in responding to this horrific event. It is through their quick response that they were able to mitigate the situation and capture the alleged assailant.”