Margaret Atwood calls Salman Rushdie a hero
If you were born in the 1980s or later, you might be wondering why someone wanted to attack the author Salman Rushdie. Writing in the Guardian this week, Canadian literary juggernaut Margaret Atwood explains why, and says the world must stand by him.
On 12 August Salmon Rushdie was stabbed on stage by an assailant at a literary event at Chautauqua, a venerable American institution in upstate New York, causing severe injuries including nerve damage in his arm, wounds to his liver, and the likely loss of an eye, his agent said. Hadi Matar, 24, pled not guilty second-degree attempted murder and assault charges.
Why did Matar attack the 75-year-old author?
He has long defended freedom of artistic expression against all comers; now, even should he recover from his injuries, he is a martyr to it, writes Atwood. “In any future monument to murdered, tortured, imprisoned and persecuted writers, Rushdie will feature large.”
“Without doubt, this attack was directed at him because his fourth novel [first published in 1988], The Satanic Verses, a satiric fantasy,” Atwood reminds readers.
The following year the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa against Rushdie for insulting Islam n the novel. “A rough equivalent to the bulls of excommunication used by medieval and renaissance Catholic popes as weapons against both secular rulers and theological challengers such as Martin Luther,” says Atwood. Khomeini also offered a large reward to anyone who would murder Rushdie.
“However, he never missed an opportunity to speak out on behalf of the principles he’d been embodying all his writing life. Freedom of expression was foremost among these, she writes. “Rushdie didn’t plan to become a free-speech hero, but he is one now. Writers everywhere – those who are not state hacks or brainwashed robots – owe him a huge vote of thanks.”
- Read “If we don’t defend free speech, we live in tyranny: Salman Rushdie shows us that” by Maragaret Aywood, published August 15, 2022 by The Guardian
(Cover: FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany – October 20 2019: Margaret Atwood (*1939, Canadian writer) at 71st Frankfurt Book Fair / Buchmesse Frankfurt. Via Shutterstock.)