Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the “cowardly attack” on novelist Salman Rushdie, calling it “a strike on freedom of expression.”
In a tweet Saturday afternoon, the prime minister wrote, “The cowardly attack on Salman Rushdie is a strike on the freedom of expression that our world relies on.”
Salman Rushdie attack: Suspect charged with attempted murder, assault
“No one should be threatened or harmed on the basis of what they have written. I’m wishing him a speedy recovery.”
Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator and unable to speak after he was attacked on stage before a lecture in New York state, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday evening. He was likely to lose the injured eye.
Rushdie’s alleged attacker, Hadi Matar, 24, was due in court on Saturday to face attempted murder and assault charges, authorities said. He was arrested after the attack at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center where Rushdie was scheduled to speak.
Authors, activists and government officials have condemned the attack and cited Rushdie’s courage for his longtime advocacy of free speech despite the risks to his own safety. The news of the attack was met with shock and outrage from much of the world, along with tributes and praise for the award-winning author who for more than 30 years has faced death threats for his novel “The Satanic Verses.”
Rushdie’s fellow author and longtime friend Ian McEwan called him “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” while actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora toward whom he’s shown incredible warmth.”
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Canadian writers, editors and literary figures also doubled down on the right to freedom of thought and expression following the attack.
Executive Vice-President and Publisher of Penguin Random House Canada Louise Dennys, who has published and edited Rushdie’s writing for over 30 years, called the attack “cowardly” and “reprehensible in every way.”
Dennys said the novelist is one of the greatest proponents of freedom of thought and speech in the world today, adding the attack is already having the opposite effect of its suspected intentions given the outpouring of support from the international literary community.
Canadian writer John Ralston Saul, who has known Rushdie since the 1990s, said the author was always aware that someone might attack him but he chose to live publicly in order to speak out against those trying to silence free expression and debate.
Salman Rushdie: Author on ventilator after being stabbed on New York stage
Rushdie, a native of India who has since lived in Britain and the US, is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning novel from 1981, “Midnight’s Children” — a book in which he sharply criticized India’s then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims regarding as blasphemy a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.
— With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press
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