Writer Salman Rushdie attacked at New York lecture hall

SHATOUKA, N.Y. (AP) — Salman Rushdie, the author who led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked Friday while attempting to give a speech in western New York.

An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage of the Chautauqua Institute and begin punching and stabbing Rushdie when he was introduced. The 75-year-old author was pushed or collapsed to the floor and the man was restrained.

Rushdie was soon surrounded by a handful of people who lifted his legs, presumably to pump more blood to his chest.

His condition was not immediately clear.

Hundreds of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and then took refuge.

Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verse has been banned in Iran since 1988 because many Muslims consider it blasphemy. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.

A bounty of over $3 million is on the line for whoever kills Rushdie.

The Iranian government has long distanced itself from President Khomeini’s orders, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingers. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation increased Rushdie’s bounty from his $2.8 million to his $3.3 million.

Rushdie dismissed the threats at the time, saying there was “no evidence” that people were interested in the rewards.

That year, Rushdie published a memoir on the fatwa, “Joseph Anton.” The title comes from the pseudonym Rushdie used while in hiding.

Rushdie rose to fame with the Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel Midnight’s Children, but his name became known around the world after The Devil’s Verse.

About 55 miles southwest of Buffalo, in rural New York, the Chautauqua Institute is known for its summer lecture series. Rushdie has spoken there before.