'Unnecessary': When Salman Rushdie complained about 'too much security' around him

In 2001, Rushdie publicly complained about having too much security around him, The New York Post reported.
Author Salman Rushdie talks about the start of his writing career, during the Mississippi Book Festival, in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 18, 2018. (Photo | AP)
Author Salman Rushdie talks about the start of his writing career, during the Mississippi Book Festival, in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 18, 2018. (Photo | AP)

NEW DELHI: Salman Rushdie, who was attacked and stabbed on stage at a literary event here, has previously complained about having too much security around him, according to a media report on Saturday.

The Mumbai-born writer, who faced Islamist death threats for years after writing "The Satanic Verses", was stabbed by a 24-year-old New Jersey resident identified as Hadi Matar on stage on Friday while he was being introduced at the event of the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York.

A bloodied Rushdie was airlifted from a field adjacent to the venue to a hospital in northwestern Pennsylvania where the 75-year-old writer underwent surgery.

In 2001, Rushdie publicly complained about having too much security around him, The New York Post reported.

While attending the Prague Writers' Festival, he told reporters, "To be here and to find a large security operation around me has actually felt a little embarrassing. I thought it was really unnecessary and kind of excessive and was certainly not arranged at my request."

"I spent a great deal of time before I came here saying that I really didn't want that. So I was very surprised to arrive here and discover a really quite substantial operation, because it felt like being in a time warp, that I had gone back in time several years," he was quoted as saying.

Rushdie was stabbed in the neck as he was on the stage at the Chautauqua Institution, a not-for-profit community on Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State, where approximately 7,500 people are in residence on any day during a nine-week season.

Following the attack on Friday, questions were raised about the security precautions -- or lack thereof -- at the host institution, which sits in a rural lake resort about 110 km south of Buffalo, New York.

The institution's leadership had rejected recommendations for basic security measures, including bag checks and metal detectors, fearing that would create a divide between speakers and the audience, according to two sources who spoke with CNN.

The leadership also feared that it would change the culture at the institution, the sources said.

UK reacts to 'appalling' attack on Rushdie, freedom of expression

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among several senior politicians and authors in the UK who took to social media to express their shock at the "appalling" attack on Rushdie, condemning the stabbing in New York as an attack on freedom of expression.

"Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend," tweeted Johnson.

"Right now my thoughts are with his loved ones. We are all hoping he is okay," he said.

Former Chancellor and contender to succeed Johnson as the new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, also took to Twitter to express his shock.

"Shocked to hear of the attack on Salman Rushdie in New York. A champion of free speech and artistic freedom. He's in our thoughts tonight," he said.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the other finalist in the Conservative Party leadership election, said: "Disgraceful attack on Sir Salman Rushdie. People must be able to speak freely and freedom of speech must be defended."

"My thoughts are with him, his family and loved ones."

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel also expressed her shock at the "unprovoked and senseless" attack on the India-born British American author of 'Midnight's Children'.

"Freedom of expression is a value we hold dear and attempts to undermine it must not be tolerated. My thoughts are with Sir Salman and his family," she tweeted.

Celebrated English novelist Ian McEwan said: "This appalling attack on my dear friend Salman represents an assault on freedom of thought and speech."

"These are the freedoms that underpin all our rights and liberties. Salman has been an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world."

Similar sentiments resonated across Europe, with French President Emmanuel Macron taking to Twitter to say: "For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. His battle is ours, a universal one."

Norwegian William Nygaard, who was shot and severely wounded in 1993 after publishing Rushdie's work, said: "He is a leading author who has meant so much to literature, and he had found a good life in the United States."

Meanwhile, the 75-year-old writer remains on a ventilator after being airlifted to hospital and undergoing hours of surgery following the attack in New York state.

"The news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye, the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged," his agent Andrew Wylie said in a written statement.

The author, who received death threats after his book 'The Satanic Verses' was published in 1988, was being introduced to the audience ahead of giving a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York on Friday, when a man stormed the stage and stabbed and punched him 10 to 15 times, according to witnesses.

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The New Indian Express