Salman Rushdie defends free speech

2015-01-15 12:24
Salman Rushdie. (Andrew Winning, Reuters)

Salman Rushdie. (Andrew Winning, Reuters)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Burlington - Author Salman Rushdie, who lived for years under a death threat after his 1988 book "The Satanic Verses" drew the wrath of Iranian religious leaders, said on Wednesday the right to free speech is absolute or else it isn't free.

Following a speech at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Rushdie was asked about the killings last week of 12 people at the Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

He said he was angered that, in the aftermath of the shootings by Islamic extremists, some from both the left and the right began to vilify the victims.

"The French satirical tradition has always been very pointed and very harsh, and still is, you know," Rushdie said.

"The thing that I really resent is the way in which these, our dead comrades... who died using the same implement that I use, which is a pen or pencil, have been almost immediately vilified and called racists and I don't know what else."

'Freedom is indivisible'

He said some believe speech should be free, but it shouldn't upset anyone or go too far.

"Both John F Kennedy and Nelson Mandela use the same three-word phrase which in my mind says it all, which is, 'Freedom is Indivisible,'" he said.

"You can't slice it up, otherwise it ceases to be freedom. You can dislike Charlie Hedbo... But the fact that you dislike them has nothing to do with their right to speak."

Rushdie's visit to the University of Vermont to discuss his writing of his book "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" was planned months ago.

But his visit was given urgency by the killings in France by two Islamic extremists who were upset with the writings and art used by Charlie Hedbo.

Controversial book

The publication of Rushie's 1988 book "The Satanic Verses" drew the wrath of Iranian religious leaders for its depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

They issued a religious edict in 1989 calling for his death. The edict was officially lifted in 1998. He now lives in New York.

Nevertheless, security at the Vermont event was heavy; security personnel searched bags and looked under heavy winter coats.

Rushdie didn't address directly his years living under the threat of death, but he spoke of how the writings of authors who offend powerful people frequently outlive the criticism - even if the artists themselves don't survive.

'Art pushes boundaries'

He said the role of art is to go to the edge, open the universe and expand minds. But doing that is not easy, and artists can't occupy a middle ground.

"And so artists who go to that edge and push outwards often find very powerful forces pushing back. They find the forces of silence opposing the forces of speech. The forces of censorship against the forces of utterance," he said.

"At that boundary is that push-and-pull between more and less. And that push and pull can be very dangerous to the artist. And many artists have suffered terribly for that."

Read more on:    salman rushdie  |  france  |  paris shooting  |  religion

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


How to open a beer bottle without an opener

Do the right thing and never be thirsty again…


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…
WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.