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Officials send prayers, condemn attack

In this still image from video, author Salman Rushdie is taken on a stretcher to a helicopter for transport to a hospital after he was attacked during a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (AP Photo)

The news of Friday’s attack on Salman Rushdie at Chautauqua Institution prompted condemnations from many.

Among them was County Executive PJ Wendel, who extended his thoughts and prayers to Rushdie’s family and friends while condemning a society that Wendel said is growing increasingly intolerant of differing beliefs.

“The small tranquil community of the Chautauqua Institution has been shaken to its core by an act of violence, which has reverberated across Chautauqua County and Western New York,” Wendel said. “It is disappointing that we live in a society where we cannot listen to the differences of others, especially in a place like the Institution where thinkers and problem solvers from around the world come to share their stories. I thank all of the emergency and law enforcement agencies who have done a tremendous job in responding to this horrific event. It is through their quick response that they were able to mitigate the situation and capture the alleged assailant.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul and state officials are staying abreast of details as they emerged.

“… He is an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power,” Hochul said. “Someone who’s been out there unafraid despite the threats that have followed him his entire adult life, it seems. And it happened at a site that is a place that’s very familiar to me. A very tranquil, rural community known as Chautauqua, Chautauqua Institution, where the most preeminent speakers and thought leaders and politicians and justices, and everyone come together to have the free expression of thought. So, this is a place ideally suited for him to be able to speak, and that’s what he was attempting to do just in the last hour before he was attacked. And I want to commend the State Police. It was a state police officer who stood up and saved his life, protected him, as well as the moderator who was attacked as well. We’re monitoring the situation, but he’s getting the care he needs at a local hospital.”

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, also denounced the attack, saying there is no room for religious extremism in America.

“This shocking attack on a celebrated and noted author, apparently prompted by fundamentalist extremism, has no place in America,” Borrello said. “The Founding Fathers fled tyranny and knew all too well the dangers of absolutism and religious zealotry. There is no room, in a free society, for beliefs that demand that you kill someone who disagrees with you.”

Rushdie wrote Satanic Verses. Published in 1988, the author said the book was inspired by the Prophet Mohammed. In 1989, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran and a Shiite scholar, issued a fatwa calling for the death of Rushdie and his publishers. Borrello recalls buying the controversial book back when it was first released.

“I bought the book, as did so many others, as a show of support for Mr. Rushdie and for the basic human right of free speech,” Sen. Borrello said. “My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Rushdie and my hope is that he has a speedy recovery.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate opposing Hochul in the November election, was attacked onstage during a campaign rally by 43-year-old David Jakubonis, has been charged with attempted assault for attacking Zeldin as he addressed a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the town of Perinton, outside Rochester. The attacker had climbed onto the low stage as the congressman addressed a crowd of dozens, flanked by bales of hay and American flags.

“Our thoughts are with Salman Rushdie’s family and friends as we pull for his full and quick recovery following this horrific attack,” Zeldin said. “We must hold the perpetrator of this violence accountable to the fullest extent of the law, and, equally as important, ensure that he remains in custody in an effort to protect public safety and everyday New Yorkers.”

Max Della Pia, candidate for the 23rd Congressional District seat, also spoke out against the attack on Rushdie.

“Let’s call this assassination attempt what it is, an attempt to intimidate and chill free speech with terror. While there are many who wanted Rushdie dead and we do not yet know who is responsible, this is a clear attack on the freedom of speech/a first amendment freedom that we treasure here in the United States. This is an affront to all Americans and all who treasure freedom. I ask Americans of all faiths to pray for Salman Rushdie and his family and make sure our love and compassion drowns out this attacker’s hate and all those who support him.” Della Pia said.

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