Writers advocate freedom of speech at event honoring Salman Rushdie

Writers and free speech advocates gathered on the steps of the New York Public Library in Manhattan on Friday to show solidarity with author Salman Rushdie, who was attacked on stage at an event the last week.

Rushdie was to speak at the Chautauqua Institution about free speech and writers in exile when Hadi Matar, 24, jumped on stage and allegedly stabbed him repeatedly.

The author has a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm and may lose an eye, his literary agent said.

“When a would-be murderer plunged a knife into Salman Rushdie’s neck, he pierced more than the flesh of a renowned writer,” Pen America chief executive Suzanne Nossel said during her keynote address. opening during the event.

“It spanned time, making us all shake to recognize that the horrors of the past were hauntingly present.


“It seeped across borders, allowing the long arm of a vengeful government to reach a safe haven.”

Rushdie lived in hiding under the protection of the British government for about 10 years after Iran’s former supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, declared a fatwa calling for the death of the author in response to the publication of his 1988 novel. satanic verses.

Mr Matar, addressing The New York Postsaid he admired Khomeini, but did not say whether the attack was inspired by the fatwa.

Hari Kunzu, a columnist for Harper’s Publishers, read the first passage from the controversial book.

“Salman once wrote that the role of the writer is to name the unspeakable, to point out frauds, to take sides, to launch arguments, to shape the world and keep it from falling asleep” , Kunzu said after reading the passages. “And that’s why we’re here, because we owe it to him to stay awake.”

Andrew Solomon, author and former executive director of Pen America, said writers live in a time when freedom of expression is under threat, pointing to recent book bans in US schools and libraries.

“The idea that the fatwa has managed to stay at bay for so long and that this appalling attack has taken place now is no accident. It is a reflection of something we all have to fight against,” he said.

Nossel added: “We must fight vigorously as if all our freedoms depended on it, because they do.”

Solomon and other writers read selected passages from works by the Indian-born author, whose style of blending surrealism, reality and politics has earned him worldwide acclaim.

Iranian writer Roya Hakakian read Haroun and the Sea of ​​Stories, a novel about the dangers of censorship and the first Rushdie written under the fatwa.

AM Homes, whose novel may we be forgiven was selected by Rushdie for America’s Best Short Stories 2008quotes Rushdie’s remarks on censorship made at the 2012 Pen World Voices Festival.

“Writers talk about creation. And censorship is anti-creation, negative energy, non-creation… Censorship is the thing that stops you from doing what you want to do,” she said, quoting Rushdie.

Mr. Matar told the Job he had only “read, like, two pages” of satanic versesa book that drew condemnation from Muslims around the world.

“I read a few pages. I didn’t read everything cover to cover,” he said.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and second-degree assault. A judge in Chautauqua County, New York, ordered that he be held without bond and not give any more interviews to the media.

Updated: August 19, 2022, 6:50 p.m.