Rushdie warns of dan­gers to free speech

Lesotho Times - - Lifestyle -

FRANK­FURT — Vi­o­lence against writ­ers and a mis­placed sense of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness pose new dan­gers to free­dom of speech in the West, writer Sal­man Rushdie said on Tues­day.

Rushdie, the sub­ject of an Ira­nian death threat in 1989 for his book “The Sa­tanic Verses”, which was deemed blas­phe­mous by many Mus­lims, said he had not ex­pected free­dom of ex­pres­sion to come un­der at­tack again to this ex­tent in the western world.

“It seems to me the bat­tle for free ex­pres­sion was won 100 years ago,” the 68-year-old told an au­di­ence at the open­ing of the Frank­furt Book Fair, un­der heavy se­cu­rity.

“The fact that we have to go on fight­ing this bat­tle is the re­sult of a num­ber of re­gret­table, more re­cent phe­nom­ena.”

Af­ter Is­lamist gun­men killed 12 peo­ple in Jan­uary in an at­tack at the of­fice of French satir­i­cal weekly Char­lie Hebdo, which had mocked re­li­gions in­clud­ing Is­lam, Rushdie de­fended the mur­dered car­toon­ists.

He still faces crit­i­cism from his reli­gious op­po­nents: the Ira­nian Min­istry of Cul­ture can­celed its na­tional stand at this year’s book fair be­cause of Rushdie’s ap­pear­ance, and Saudi Ara­bia protested against a new Czech trans­la­tion of “The Sa­tanic Verses” only last week.

Rushdie crit­i­cized re­straints on free­dom of ex­pres­sion at uni­ver­si­ties, re­fer­ring to re­cent ex­am­ples in Bri­tain and the United States. “The idea that stu­dents should not be in­tel­lec­tu­ally chal­lenged at uni­ver­si­ties is ex­actly what we should fight,” he said.

The Bri­tish In­dian nov­el­ist, who went into hid­ing for years af­ter the 1989 edict by Ira- nian leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ruhol­lah Khome­ini or­der­ing Mus­lims to kill him, has re­sumed pub­lic ap­pear­ances in re­cent years and was in Frank­furt pro­mot­ing his new book.

“Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights”, a ref­er­ence to the 1,001 nights of the fa­mous Ara­bic tales, is de­scribed as a novel ex­plor­ing the com­plex­ity of the world by weav­ing to­gether his­tory, mythol­ogy and love.

Rushdie told his au­di­ence that all peo­ple around the world could re­late to sto­ries, so lim­it­ing free­dom of ex­pres­sion was not just cen­sor­ship but an as­sault on hu­man na­ture.

“It pre­vents us from be­ing the kind of crea­tures that we are. It is not some­thing which is spe­cific to one cul­ture. It is some­thing uni­ver­sal to hu­man be­ings,” he said.

SAL­MAN Rushdie.

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