UK News: If Salman Rushdie can be silenced, so can we all, writes Booker Prize winning author BEN OKRI

Salman Rushdie stabbed: "Nothing justifies a fatwa", is indignant "Charlie Hebdo"

 Salman Rushdie stabbed: "The freedom to think, to think and to express has no value for God and his servants", writes Riss, Director of publication of the newspaper, after the attack of which the writer in the United States was the victim. © supplied by Franceinfo "Nothing justifies a fatwa, a death sentence", indignant the editorial staff of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Saturday August 13, after the attack on the British writer Salman Rushdie .

Every intelligent person should be not just shocked but outraged at the attack on the writer Salman Rushdie.

He suffered up to 15 separate wounds – all knife stabs into the freedom of imagination and expression that keeps us human.

It is all the sadder that, after years of living as a fugitive, Salman had bravely started living as a normal citizen in the world. He could write books, find love and – seemingly – travel freely.

The Iranian fatwa issued on Rushdie in 1989 – effectively a death sentence – was a terrifying moment not just for the author, but the nation, too.

It seemed to catch us unawares. We were appalled at the idea that writing a novel could lead to death.

"Religious obscurantism struck us": Éric Naulleau reacts to the attack on Salman Rushdie

 © Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP The Iranian writer Salman Rushdie was the victim of a knife attack at a conference. In Europe evening, the writer and journalist Éric Naulleau returned to this assault. He explained that "Salman Rushdie was despite himself a political issue and a geopolitical issue". Horror struck on Friday in New York. British writer Salman Rushdie was the victim of a knife attack at a conference .

I remember profoundly the atmosphere of fear and confusion and the riots that followed the fatwa on him.

When it was announced, I was a young writer with four books published. I recall my sense of shock. Suddenly the act of writing was fraught with danger.

Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed on stage in New York where he sustained nerve damage to his arm and his liver © Provided by Daily Mail Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed on stage in New York where he sustained nerve damage to his arm and his liver

I was one of the first writers to respond in support of freedom of speech in an essay I delivered at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Hundreds attended in an atmosphere of defiance – as well as fear.

The threat to Salman’s life was no fiction.

In time, I came to know Salman as a friend. I attended his wedding. Visiting his house, he showed me a cupboard crammed with books he’d written.

The assailant of Rushdie pleads non -guilty, the writer always hospitalized

 The assailant of Rushdie pleads non -guilty, the writer always hospitalized Personalitis - Salman Rushdie/ (Photo, TV): the assailant of Rushdie non -guilty, the writer always hospitalized by Kanishka Singh and Nathan Layne August 13 (Reuters) - The author of Indian origin Salman Rushdie was still hospitalized after being stabbed on Friday during a conference organized by the Chautauqua Institution in New York State.

‘You could have something like this,’ he said. ‘All this came from winning a Booker Prize.’ And he was right.

Yet the bitterness of that moment in 1989 never really went away.

The debate divided political, religious and literary communities.

There was a whole range of sensitivities involved. The anger on all sides was real.

The uproar helped to bring to public awareness the strength and variety of the Muslim presence in Britain.

Strong voices spoke out in defence of religion and, to those who were not so aware of them before, the more than one billion Muslims around the world came into focus.

The episode raised difficult questions about our changing society, about a multicultural Britain. It also hardened many positions – and we have not been the same since.

We already live in a climate in which it is increasingly harder to express oneself freely. Now, this attack on Salman Rushdie, which many of us have feared for more than 30 years, has made creativity a matter of life and death.

Salman Rushdie "On the way to recovery", his attacker pleads "not guilty"

 Salman Rushdie © Mary Newsom Salman Rushdie taken care of after his assault on Friday August 12 in New York. After dread and worry, reassuring news. In the next day of the violent attempted murder he suffered on Friday in New York State, when he was about to give a literary conference, the writer Salman Rushdie, 75, remains hospitalized in a serious condition, in Pennsylvania. But he is better and was able to say a few words.

 A group of people rushed to assist the author after the attack, with the attacker being restrained by witnesses © Provided by Daily Mail A group of people rushed to assist the author after the attack, with the attacker being restrained by witnesses

The internet has unleashed the monsters of trolling and hate speech. Death threats are issued to celebrities and to ordinary citizens expressing themselves on any number of issues.


Gallery: How to recognize a fascist (Espresso)

Fascism’s extreme nationalism leads inevitably to xenophobia. Neo-fascists have thoroughly adopted the anti-Semitism and racism practised by German Nazis. Indeed, the face of the enemy plays an important role in mobilizing the masses, and fascists use a scapegoat to exploit fear of difference.In various times and places, Jews, immigrants, Blacks, Muslims, Roma, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and others have been the target of hatred.

We have become less tolerant of nuance and disagreement. The atmosphere is more toxic than it has ever been.

Yet it cannot be said strongly enough that a society cannot survive without free speech. Democracy is built on the right to dissent, on the right for people to hold opposing positions.

Our societies need freedom of expression to protect us from the worst atrocities that governments can visit on their citizens.

Every intelligent person should be not just shocked but outraged at the attack on the writer Salman Rushdie, says Ben Okri © Provided by Daily Mail Every intelligent person should be not just shocked but outraged at the attack on the writer Salman Rushdie, says Ben Okri

There are currently about 50 nations in the world in violation of basic rights to freedom of speech. In these places, writers languish in prisons, often without recourse to the law.

Salman Rushdie attack leads to calls to re-evaluate US and UK relations with Iran

  Salman Rushdie attack leads to calls to re-evaluate US and UK relations with Iran The stabbing of the writer could influence the West's policy on sanctions, with Rishi Sunak questioning the chances of a revived nuclear deal with TehranRushdie is recoving in hospital after being stabbed at an event in New York this week. His family said he had “life-changing injuries” but his “usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact”.

In some Latin American countries, journalists are in danger for drawing attention to pollution and environmental destruction. Freedom of thought and expression are essential for civilised life. But this does not mean we have a right to hate speech, or incitement to violence, or words that denigrate or dehumanise. Free expression should be exercised with respect.

I supported Salman Rushdie in the Eighties because I did not believe that he wrote his novel to deliberately cause offence.

A novel is a dialogue of voices. A novel is not a polemic. It creates a world to question a world.

I supported Salman because I believe we must protect the realm of the imagination. No one should be killed because of a novel. Violence is never the answer to disagreements.

I am no stranger to the price writers pay for their work. In the Eighties I wrote a series of articles for a Nigerian newspaper lampooning the rigged elections. I was advised to leave the country the next morning.

In the Nineties we saw how Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged for protesting against the environmental destruction caused by drilling for oil in his homeland.

Today, it is impossible to know who will take offence at what when it comes to the world of the imagination. In certain states in America, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is banned for drawing attention to the evils of slavery.

Travel to Lebanon, admirer of Khomeyni: the very religious profile of the aggressor of Salman Rushdie

 Travel to Lebanon, admirer of Khomeyni: the very religious profile of the aggressor of Salman Rushdie © Gene J. Puskar/AP/SIPA HADI MATAR during his indictment for aggression and attempted murder. We know a little more about the aggressor of Salman Rushdie, stabbed several times during a conference in New York State on August 12. Hadi Matar, the writer's attacker, had returned "changed" to a trip to Lebanon in 2018. The 24 -year -old went to visit his father, from Yaroun, in the south of the country.

I have just published a novel called The Last Gift Of The Master Artists, and it is set in the moment before the slave trade changes the life of a continent. Who can tell whether this will cause offence?

We need freedom of speech and thought for the health of our culture. We need to be able to ventilate our fears and grievances and express our sense of injustice done. We need to be free to express our doubts.

It is not asking difficult questions that diminishes us. It is being afraid to ask questions.

Salman Rushdie is a writer who has not been afraid to ask awkward questions. He has asked questions about justice and has advocated for the values of a diverse and tolerant Britain. He is one of the most distinguished writers in the world today, and he is an icon of free speech.

Rushdie was airlifted to hospital after receiving medical assistance from those at the event near Buffalo, in Upstate New York  © Provided by Daily Mail Rushdie was airlifted to hospital after receiving medical assistance from those at the event near Buffalo, in Upstate New York

Enough attention has not been drawn to the incredible courage it takes to go on functioning with a $3 million death threat on your head.

But the real courage for me is that Salman Rushdie has gone on holding firmly to the fundamental principle of freedom of expression when it would have been much easier to cave in and retreat in fear.

In one of my conversations with him after the fatwa, he said: ‘Ben, my greatest fear is that the fatwa, the clamour, will damage my imagination forever.’ In short, he was afraid we would not be able to write again.

I knew he would write again because writing is a force in him, almost a destiny. And I was right. For he has written many books since. But that fear was very real.

The best basketball movies

  The best basketball movies Sports and film blend together like few things ever have, and it’s easy to see why. The natural highs and lows of a sports story lend themselves perfectly to the medium of film, whether that be the rough-and-tumble rise of Rocky Balboa or the goofy escapades of the Mighty Ducks. Some of the best sports movies ever made have been basketball films, and here are 20 of the greatest.

It is that fear which we now ought to confront. The fear of being murdered for our writing, for our legitimate questions. The fear of our creativity, our imagination, being silenced.

I believe that a civilisation is as great as its intrinsic freedom. Many forces threaten this freedom. But it is the triumph of this freedom that has given us our cities, our art, our literature, our laws, and the civic structures of our societies.

Throughout history the thoughts that will take us forward have often been censored. But the thoughts that liberate us always triumph in the end.

Writers and artists cannot afford to be intimidated by the reality of violence. This is not a matter for writers only. None of us can function without a measure of courage. Our lives would be intolerable without freedom of thought.

This issue should never descend into a demonising of a religion or a people, but perhaps it is time for another high-level negotiation with clerics in Iran for a formal withdrawal of the fatwa. As long as the fatwa hovers over Salman Rushdie, his life is in danger.

If one writer can be silenced and killed then we can all be. We cannot allow this legitimisation of the murder of an artist in our world.

To kill one imagination is to kill all of our imaginations. It is too late in the day to turn back the clock of human liberties.

lBen Okri is a vice president of English PEN, the campaign group for freedom of expression.

Read more

Salman Rushdie: Man facing US court accused of stabbing author .
Hadi Matar will appear at Chautauqua County Court in New York state.A grand jury has indicted Hadi Matar, who allegedly attacked 75-year-old Sir Salman as the renowned author prepared to give a talk in western New York state on August 12.

See also