Salman Rushdie has blasted several writers for boycotting PEN’s ceremony next month in New York honoring the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with a freedom of expression courage award. Muslim terrorists stormed Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters in Paris killing a dozen people including seven members of the magazine’s staff.
Rushdie stated, “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.”
He also tweeted, “The award will be given. PEN is holding firm. Just 6 pussies. Six Authors in Search of a bit of Character.”
Among the six writers (or as Rushdie puts it, six pussies) is Canadian author Michael Ondaatje, best known for writing The English Patient for which he received the Booker Prize and was, of course, adapted into the Oscar winning film.
This follows Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau’s recent comment that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists “wandered into the realm of hate speech.” Trudeau now insists that he wasn’t blaming the cartoonists for their deaths. He argues, “As societies we collectively decide what’s untouchable. But I don’t have the right to decide what is sacred or profane for somebody else.”
Rubbish. If Charlie Hebdo had confined its satire to Evangelical Christians there would not be a word of discontent from the Michael Ondaatjes and the Garry Trudeaus of the world. They would have no trouble giving a free speech award to Charlie Hebdo. It is easy to criticize religions which do not fight back. Hence the term courage. A concept with which Trudeau and those writers boycotting the PEN Awards are unfamiliar.