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 Booker Prize-winning author Sir Salman 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.