Safety concerns loom as writers show public support for Rushdie

NEW YORK, Aug 19 (Reuters) – Under the watch of counterterrorism officers and police in tactical gear, hundreds of people gathered in front of the New York Public Library on Friday to show support for Salman Rushdie, the author stabbed multiple times at a literary event a week ago.

Irish novelist Colum McCann, British writer Hari Kunzru and others read passages from Rushdie’s works from the top of the flagship library branch’s steps off Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Below, at a distance enforced by organizers, a crowd of about 400 people gathered to listen, breaking out into a chant of “Stand with Salman” when the event concluded.

Some held signs depicting Rushdie and quoting him saying, “If we are not confident of our freedom, then we are not free.”

Register now for FREE unlimited access to

Police say Rushdie was attacked by a 24-year-old New Jersey man who rushed a stage and stabbed the writer in the neck and torso at a literary festival in western New York last week. Rushdie, who was rushed to a hospital, survived. read more

There were no bag checks or metal detectors to screen for weapons ahead of the appearance by Rushdie, who had been living under a death sentence for 33 years. read more

The suspect has pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and assault charges.

“I hope this is a wake-up call that people like Salman, who are fearless, who write things as they see them, who are not afraid to speak the truth as they view it, really are in danger,” said PEN America Chief Executive Suzanne Nossel. The nonprofit free-expression and human rights group helped organize the event.

Attendees spoke of their worries for themselves and other writers following the attack.

“We’re all in danger. And some of us are more overtly in danger than the rest,” Iranian-American author Roya Hakakian said in an interview.

While the death sentence, or fatwa, ordered on Rushdie by Iran was among the most high-profile threats, many authors say harassment and calls for violence have become part of the experience of being a writer.

“Love Is an Ex-Country” author Randa Jarrar said in an email interview this week that she had to learn how to “better aim a gun” and prepare physically…