15 Aug 2022

Author Salman Rushdie's 'defiant sense of humour' remains, son says

9:47 am on 15 August 2022

Author Salman Rushdie is still in a critical condition but "his usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact", his son says.

Salman Rushdie, English writer in 2008. Credit: Ulf Andersen / Aurimages. (Photo by ULF ANDERSEN / Ulf Andersen / Aurimages via AFP)

Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed at least 10 times in the face, neck and abdomen, at a literary event in New York state. Photo: AFP

Zafar Rushdie said his father had sustained life-changing injuries, but was able to speak to his family.

Rushdie, 75, was left severely injured after being stabbed on stage at an event in New York state.

He has faced years of death threats for his novel The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims see as blasphemous.

The man charged over Friday's attack has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.

"Following the attack on Friday, my father remains in critical condition in hospital receiving extensive ongoing medical treatment," Zafar Rushdie tweeted.

The family were "extremely relieved" when Rushdie was taken off a ventilator on Saturday, he said, adding that his father was able to "say a few words".

"Though his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact," he said.

Earlier, the author's agent Andrew Wylie said his "road to recovery has begun".

"It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction," he said.

The suspect Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of running onto the stage and stabbing Rushdie at least 10 times in the face, neck and abdomen.

NEW YORK, USA - AUGUST 13: A view from the round of the house of Salman Rushdie attack suspect 24-year-old Hadi Matar, as FBI members and local police forces are being carried out search, in Fairview, New Jersey, United States on August 13, 2022. The suspect, who attacked author Salman Rushdie on stage in New York state, was taken into custody, New York State Police said on Friday. Author Salman Rushdie, 75, whose works have prompted death threats, was attacked on stage in New York state on Friday ahead of a lecture he was about to present. Islam Dogru / Anadolu Agency (Photo by Islam Dogru / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP)

Police at the scene of the attack. Photo: AFP

A judge ordered he be held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt said Matar had purposely put himself in a position to harm the author.

"This was a targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack on Mr Rushdie," Schmidt said.

Wylie has said the celebrated novelist suffered severed nerves in one arm, damage to his liver, and would

likely lose an eye.

President Joe Biden and the First Lady, Jill Biden, have joined the widespread condemnation of the attack, saying that Rushdie "stands for essential, universal ideals".

Furious reception for novel

The novelist was forced into hiding for nearly 10 years after The Satanic Verses was published in 1988. Many Muslims reacted with fury to it, arguing that the portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad was a grave insult to their faith.

Rushdie faced death threats and the then-Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa - or decree - calling for Rushdie's assassination, placing a $US3 million ($NZ4.65m) bounty on the author's head.

The fatwa remains active, and although Iran's government has distanced itself from Khomeini's decree, a quasi-official Iranian religious foundation added a further $US500,000 to the reward in 2012.

Matar, from Fairview, New Jersey, was born in the US to parents who had emigrated from Lebanon, a Lebanese official has told the media.

A review of his social media accounts has suggested he is sympathetic to the causes of the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRG), NBC News reported.

However, no link has been definitively established with the IRG - a major military, political and economic force with close ties to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and many other senior figures.