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PEN row: Rushdie slams ‘pussy’ authors

PEN row: Rushdie slams ‘pussy’ authors

Celebrated author Salman Rushdie – forced into hiding for after a fatwa was issued against by Muslim fanatics who objected to his The Satanic Verses – has castigated six of his fellow authors who withdrew from the PEN annual gala in New York over the organisation’s decision to honour Charlie Hebdo with its freedom of expression courage award.

Rushdie, according to this report, described the writers – including Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje and Francine Prose – as “six pussies” who were “horribly wrong”.

He added:

If PEN as a free-speech organisation can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organisation is not worth the name. What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.

Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi announced yesterday that they had withdrawn from next month’s PEN American Center gala, citing objections to the literary and human rights organisation’s honouring of the French satirical magazine.

PEN is due to honour Charlie Hebdo with the James C Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage award on 5 May.

The free speech organisation has said that:

In paying the ultimate price for the exercise of their freedom, and then soldiering on amid devastating loss, Charlie Hebdo deserves to be recognised for its dauntlessness in the face of one of the most noxious assaults on expression in recent memory.

The prize is set to be accepted by Charlie Hebdo staff member Jean-Baptiste Thoret, who missed the January 7  attack in which 12 people were massacred because he arrived late for work that day.

Prose told the Associated Press that while she was in favour of “freedom of speech without limitations”, and  “deplored” the shootings at Charlie Hebdo, the award signified “admiration and respect” for its work. However:

I couldn’t imagine being in the audience when they have a standing ovation for Charlie Hebdo.

carey

Carey, above, told the New York Times that:

A hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom-of-speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about? All this is complicated by PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognise its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.

Andrew Solomon, President of PEN, told the Guardian that aside from brief exchanges with Carey and writer Deborah Eisenberg, no one had indicated they would not attend the gala over the award before the six letters.

He said that PEN distinguished between the right of free speech and much of what Charlie Hebdo actually published.

The award does not agree with the content of what they expressed. It expressed admiration for that commitment of free speech.

He compared the controversy to PEN’s inclusion of Pussy Riot at last year’s gala, saying that the Russian activists’ behaviour is:

In many instances juvenile, and many people had felt that removing large parts of your clothing in an Orthodox church was offensive, but in standing up to the Putin regime they did something worth admiration.?

If we only endorsed freedom of speech for people whose speech we liked that would be a very limited notion of freedom of speech. It’s a courage award, not a content award.

Solomon also provided several letters of support to PEN’s decision, including one from Rushdie, who wrote:

It is quite right that PEN should honour [Charlie Hebdo’s] sacrifice and condemn their murder without these disgusting ‘buts’. This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non Muslims, into a cowed silence.?

These six writers have made themselves the fellow travellers of that project. Now they will have the dubious satisfaction of watching PEN tear itself apart in public.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

14 responses to “PEN row: Rushdie slams ‘pussy’ authors”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    The interminable agonising over whose rights take priotity is, quite frankly, why Western liberalism is sadly doomed to failure. And why we end up being such a soft target for hardline groups who want to either abuse our system or subjugate us all to their way of thinking. Having said all which – none of them ever have.

  2. RussellW says:

    “moral obligation”? “disempowered”?

    There’s no moral obligation to submit to the beliefs of the most violent and intolerant segments of the population and people who will shoot dissenters in the head aren’t disempowered.

    Those Islamists are scary aren’t they, let’s try another helping of multi-culti pixie dust and assume the dhimmi position.

    I’m surprised Rushie didn’t use more colourful language.

  3. sailor1031 says:

    Right. French muslims are disempowerd because they only have the same rights as everyone else in secular France. A pox on all these post-modernist pseudo-intellectuals who would sell us all out to the tyranny of the islamic caliphate. We now have six more writers to put on the do-not-bother-to-read-their crap list.

  4. John the Drunkard says:

    Every aspect of human decency MUST be discarded because…ISLAM!

    Its hard to imagine how anyone as obsequious and crawlingly servile as these six,could be made to feel the shame they have brought down on themselves.

    The violent almost always talk themselves into ‘victim’ status first. Poor Downtrodden Germany…oppressed by the Poles in 1939. The Poor Downtrodden Ku Kux Klan…oppressed by Northern Aggression and those Uppity Darkies. The Xtian Right, always oppressed by the reality based community…

  5. Marky Marky says:

    (We now have six more writers to put on the do-not-bother-to-read-their crap list.)
    …ditto

  6. pat says:

    Okay, you’d think that if the writer is going to continually reference an organization, they’d actually name the organization…”PEN” “PEN” “PEN” – nowhere does it give the full name of “PEN”.
    Regardless, there’s now six folks whose books I won’t be reading.

  7. Great Satan says:

    The so called “intelligentsia” should be ridiculed and lampooned for their failure to defend the free speech which they so willingly make a living out of.
    Boycott these authors !

  8. Laura Roberts says:

    It’s a problem on both the left and the right. On the left, people foolishly conflate cultural diversity (eating avocados with sugar vs. eating them with salt) with moral diversity (mutilating childrens’ genitals is OK if it’s sanctified). On the right, Christian pundits roundly attack Muslims for their violence and then claim that free speech is fine as long as you don’t criticise someone’s religion (recall the pope’s vile comments after the Hebdo massacre, or Bill Donahue’s).

  9. Peterat says:

    As Hitch, Sam Harris and others have already said, we need to spread the potential liability of being a target of these douchebags around by ALL standing up for the right to criticize, and yes, insult other people, parties, political and religious beliefs, regadless of how devoutly those beliefs are held.
    It is not freedom if it’s conditional!
    BTW: where can I send my books? Or should I just burn them?

  10. Newspaniard says:

    Burning books is a no-no. Charity shop first. The uninformed will buy them and the charity will win. (Hopefully not a religious charity)

  11. Brummie says:

    Burning books is ok. No problem. As long as it is not the only copy. That then becomes censorship, which is wrong.

  12. Brummie says:

    I would happily burn every copy of the bible, Talmud and Koran I could get my hands on. Unfortunately millions more still exist, poisoning the future of real civilisation.

  13. Peterat says:

    And if you get the chance,read Rushdie’s latest “novel” – Joseph Anton -wherein he decribes the shitshow that he was dragged through for over 10 years after the fatwa was placed on him. The man is a hero!