Bill Maher devoted time during his latest episode of HBO’s Real Time to honoring his close friend Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed Friday just before giving a lecture in Western New York.
Maher sat down with guests Piers Morgan and writer Rikki Schlott, and at the start of the segment, he explained that his mind was on the attack. Rushdie, whose 1988 novel The Satanic Verses was viewed as blasphemous by many Muslims, was on a ventilator and likely to lose an eye from the attack, according to a statement late Friday from his agent, Andrew Wylie.
“First, I have to say something — it’s somewhat personal but also national news,” Maher said. “A dear friend of mine, good friend of this show, got stabbed today, Salman Rushdie. I’m sure people have seen this news.”
Maher continued by discussing his feelings surrounding the Islamic faith. “Islam is still a much more fundamentalist religion than any of the other religions in the world, and that means they take what’s in the holy book seriously,” the host said. “And that has been dangerous for a long time — it’s still dangerous. This was 1989 when he was first threatened.”
Morgan responded by saying that freedom of speech in the U.S. is at risk, and he likened the attack on Rushdie to comedians Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock having been accosted onstage earlier this year.
“Ask Dave Chappelle — attacked onstage for having an opinion, for cracking jokes,” Morgan said. “Ask Chris Rock, punched onstage at the Oscars for cracking a joke. Once it strays into violence, then you end up with Salman Rushdie being stabbed by a lunatic on a stage in New York.”
Police named 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, as the attack suspect in Rushdie’s stabbing. Matar was arrested at the scene, and police have yet to determine a motive.