New security measures in place after attack on Salman Rushdie

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC / AP) — At the Chautauqua Institute, new security measures are in place following the knife attack against author Salmon Rushdie on August 12.

Some of the people who witnessed the attack were surprised by what appeared to be a lack of security at the Chautauqua Institute, especially considering that Salman Rushdie has faced backlash and death threats. Those started after he published his most famous work, the satanic verses in 1988.

Chautauqua administrators have spent the days since the attack talking with law enforcement and security experts about how to improve safety.

The venue made some changes, which went into effect this week. First, if you plan to visit or attend an event there, you will now have to show a photo ID regardless of the event. You’ll want to leave your bags in the car because there is now a no bag policy at the amphitheater and all indoor performance venues.

The heightened security is already noticeable on the grounds. On Monday, there was an event there. A member of the January 6th committee was speaking and there was a clear increase in police presence, including a sheriff’s deputy with a K-9, sniffing the bushes outside of the auditorium.

Rushdie continues to improve after being attacked on the stage in Western New York. Rushdie’s family says his injuries are life altering, but he has been taken off a ventilator and is now talking. The author was stabbed at least a dozen times as he was being introduced for a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution. That’s about 70 miles south of buffalo.

Rushdie has damage to his neck, liver, arm and eye and is still in critical condition.

Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old from New Jersey pleaded not guilty Saturday to attempted murder and assault. Mata was born in the U.S. to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border, according to the village’s mayor. Matar had lived in recent years in New Jersey with his mother, who told London’s Daily Mail that her son became moody and more religious after a month-long trip to Lebanon in 2018.

Village records in Yaroun show Matar holds Lebanese citizenship and is a Shiite, an official there said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns, said Matar’s father lives there but has been in seclusion since the attack.

Also injured in the attack was the moderator of the lecture with Rushdie. Henry Reese spoke about the attacker Monday on the Today Show.

“When this guy first appeared, I thought it was a really bad prank,” said Reese. “And didn’t quite believe it or didn’t understand that it was anything more than that initially, until I saw blood and after that you realize this is real.”

Rushdie has faced death threats for more than 30 years for his novel “The Satanic Verses,” that some Muslims claim is blasphemous.

In 1989, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, demanding the author’s death, and while Iran has not focused on Rushdie in recent years, the decree still stands.

Also, a semiofficial Iranian foundation had posted a bounty of over $3 million for the killing of the author. It has not commented on the attack.

“Regarding the attack against Salman Rushdie in America, we don’t consider anyone deserving reproach, blame or even condemnation, except for (Rushdie) himself and his supporters,” Kanaani said. “In this regard, no one can blame the Islamic Republic of Iran. We believe that the insults made and the support he received was an insult against followers of all religions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while not directly blaming Tehran for the attack on Rushdie, denounced Iran in a statement Monday praising the writer’s support for freedom of expression and religion.

“Iranian state institutions have incited violence against Rushdie for generations, and state-affiliated media recently gloated about the attempt on his life,” Blinken said. “This is despicable.”