The thought of it turns the stomach. A man stabbed for writing a book. And not just any man, but Salman Rushdie. The author with the price on his head. The author of the The Satanic Verses, the novel burned by Islamists around the world. The author whose act of ‘blasphemy’ at the tailend of the 20th century showed us just how deep the problem of Islamist intolerance is – and just how deep Western liberal cowardice is in the face of this most violent and unhinged variant of cancel culture.

We are all praying for Salman Rushdie today, even us godless types. He was airlifted to hospital yesterday after being stabbed multiple times in the neck and abdomen on stage at an event in New York. Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, says he is on a ventilator and unable to speak. ‘Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged’, he says. Those who believe in freedom the world over are willing him to pull through.

We are not yet sure why the suspect – 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey – rushed on stage and stabbed Rushdie in reportedly crazed fashion. But we can make an educated guess. For more than 30 years Rushdie has lived under an execution order. On 14 February 1989, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him and anyone involved in publishing his ‘blasphemous’ fourth novel. He went into hiding for nine years. The book’s Japanese translator was stabbed to death in 1991. Its Turkish translator narrowly escaped an Islamist arson attack in 1993, which claimed the lives of 37 others.

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