Literary figures and public officials said that they were shocked by the news that the author Salman Rushdie had been stabbed in the neck on Friday morning while onstage to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York.
“We cannot immediately think of any comparable incident of a public violent attack on a writer during a literary event here in the United States,” said Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit literary organization PEN America, who noted that the motivations for the attack and Mr. Rushdie’s current condition were unknown as of Friday late morning.
Mr. Rushdie is a former president of PEN America, which advocates for writers’ freedom of expression around the world.
She said in a statement that the organization’s members were “reeling from shock and horror.”
Ms. Nossel said Mr. Rushdie had emailed her hours before the attack to ask about helping Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge.
“Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades, but has never flinched nor faltered,” she said. “He has devoted tireless energy to assisting others who are vulnerable and menaced.”
The author Neil Gaiman wrote on Twitter that he was “shocked and distressed” about the attack.
“He’s a good man and a brilliant one and I hope he’s okay,” he said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said she had directed state police to assist with the investigation into Mr. Rushdie’s attack. A man was immediately taken into custody, according to a statement from the state police.
“Our thoughts are with Salman & his loved ones following this horrific event,” Ms. Hochul said on Twitter.
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York also spoke out on social media, calling the attack “shocking and appalling.”
“It is an attack on freedom of speech and thought, which are two bedrock values of our country and of the Chautauqua Institution,” Mr. Schumer wrote. “I hope Mr. Rushdie quickly and fully recovers and the perpetrator experiences full accountability and justice.”
A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim civil rights group, said he was concerned that people might rush to blame Muslims or Islam for the stabbing before the attacker’s identity or motive were known.
“American Muslims, like all Americans, condemn any violence targeting anyone in our society,” said Ibrahim Hooper. “That goes without saying. We will have to monitor the situation and see what facts come to light.”
Liam Stack contributed reporting.