World leaders expressed their shock and grief at the attack on Midnight’s Children author Salman Rushdie who was brutally stabbed by a man at an event in New York on Friday. The 75-year-old Booker Prize laureate is currently on a ventilator battling for his life. He has suffered severe nerve damage, the stabbing has pierced his liver and he may lose an eye, Rushdie’s book agent Andrew Wylie told media persons.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the incident, calling it an attack on his freedom of expression. “Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend. Right now, my thoughts are with his loved ones. We are all hoping he is okay,” Johnson tweeted.

The Mumbai-born British writer has spent years in hiding after the release of his book Satanic Verses because Iran called ‘fatwa’ and urged Muslims to kill him because for his controversial writing.

Former UK chancellor and a leading contender to succeed Johnson’s post, 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,” Sunak wrote.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the other finalist in the British elections, tweeted, “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.”

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his support to the author and said France stood with Salman Rushdie. “For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. He has just been the victim of a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarism. His fight is our fight; it is universal. Now more than ever, we stand by his side,” he said.

Taking to Twitter, US Senator Chuck Schumer said, “This attack is 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. I hope Rushdie quickly and fully recovers and the perpetrator experiences full accountability and justice.”

“We’re all praying for his speedy recovery. And we’re thankful to good citizens and first responders for helping him so swiftly,” said White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

In India, Congress leaders Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor and Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi were among the first to react. “Utterly horrified & shocked by the stabbing of Salman Rushdie. Wish him a speedy & complete recovery from his wounds, even though, with a sinking heart, I recognize that life for him can never be the same again. A sad day, worse if creative expression can no longer be free & open,” tweeted Thiruvanthapuram MP Tharoor, who is also a writer.

Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and torso onstage at a lecture in New York state and airlifted to a hospital, police had said. In a statement, Rushdie’s publishers at Penguin Random House said: “We condemn this violent public assault, and our thoughts are with Salman and his family at this distressing time.”

Twenty-four-year-old Hadi Matar from Fairview, New Jersey has been identified as the suspect who stabbed Rushdie, the New York State Police said.