Statement from English PEN on renewed threat to Salman Rushdie


English PEN deplores the statement of Iranian cleric Ayatollah Hassan Sane’i of the 15 Khordad Foundation, which constitutes a new threat to the life of Salman Rushdie. 

Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, said: ‘This is a cynical attempt to exploit the violence of the past week.  It seeks to incite murder, sow division and further escalate an international controversy.
We support the liberty of writers everywhere to explore and question ideas, including the discussion of religion, without facing any risk to their own life or to the lives of those who publish or translate their work.’
Writers and members of PEN expressed their support today for Salman Rushdie:
Lisa Appignanesi‘As it was in 1989, the banner of “blasphemy” masks blatant bids for power. Yet again a novelist is being used by politicians in their political machinations.  Rushdie needs vocal support from anyone who believes in the good that free expression and unhindered imagination bring to our societies. The film that has caused this round of unrest is an insult to everyone’s intelligence, but the means of combatting that is more intelligence, not threats of reinstated fatwas and killings.’
Hanif Kureishi:  ‘Through his extraordinary books and bravery in the face of intolerance, Salman Rushdie has shown the world that literature and free speech can never be taken for granted.  Authors must be free to ask challenging questions and speak truth to power.  It is imperative that we defend Rushdie’s right to free expression without fear, for his freedom is the freedom of all writers, everywhere.’
Fay Weldon: ‘Twenty years ago the fatwa extended to publishers, printers, critics, translators, and the threat of violence  was a fairly  successful attempt to silence writers,  Salman today, tomorrow the rest of us. A united front of defiance is essential. Appeasement is no answer, and why we drifted into the trouble we are in today.’

Salman Rushdie received the 2010 Golden PEN award from the board of English PEN.  You can watch his acceptance speech online.

Add your voice to the messages of support for Salman Rushdie, by leaving a message in the comments box below.




25 Comments on Statement from English PEN on renewed threat to Salman Rushdie - Leave a comment

Marge Berer

I am appalled to hear that the threat against Salman Rushdie has again surfaced. Incitement to murder should be a punishable offence, no matter who it comes from, and the persons concerned should be arrested and charged with a crime.   

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Helen Bang

Very sorry to hear of these renewed threats. I heard you say that the imagination cannot create when in chains. I hope you can find a way to rise above these fanatics and keep connected to your creative mind. Thinking of you. Helen.

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Helen Coyle

Horrifying to read that the threats are being renewed. I have just read the interview in the Guardian discussing Joseph Anton, and was so impressed by the courage displayed by everyone connected with the publication of Satanic Verses. The hopeful ending of that piece feels a little hollow now. We all have a duty to resist the criminal actions of religious fanatics. 

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harriet walter

You are directly at the spear head of this insane attack but you have an army of supporters behind you who will continue to battle for sanity and the freedom of the individual to express their views and to create art according to their vision. 

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George Szirtes

I was first asked to write about this in the TLS in 1989, just a brief statement. I did so then. Things are far worse now. This renewed threat, which is, essentially, a political device to keep tempers high and possibly to balance forces within militant Islam, is intolerable and the stakes are higher than ever. I don’t know what letters of support do to help – I have posted various interviews with you on Facebook and Twitter – but I do hope there may be sufficient numbers to make some impression.

Good luck and courage. In admiration. 

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Chantal RC

Literature is the reasoned exercise of the imagination. and yours, Mr Rushdie,  is a mighty one. May you never cease to sense around you and within, the many many kindred spirits that are your friends in literature, and in humanity. May this be tethered in your heart. Chantal

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Miranda France

During Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ the regime wished to promote the slogan that ‘Silence is Health’. As we all know, the opposite is true. Thank you for your eloquence.

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John Garth Raubenheimer

Sorry to hear about this new threat to your life, Mr Rushdie. I know you have done nothing to deserve the treatment you have received.Imagination like yours, the ability to tell us stories  is a precious gift. Like all good writers and artists you should be treasured… You bring inestimable value to the human soul, showing us to be individuals with valuable lives. Imagining a character into existence is an act of love. Allow me to stand by your side with other writers and poets who answer this call from PEN… Together perhaps we can move the world’s readers and thinkers to call shame on the cowardly assault on you.   

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Jon Lindsay Miles

The renewal of this type of aggression is no surprise, of course, and is part of the kind of long-term debate and struggle in the establishment of free expression as a creative responsibility, as much as a right.

I applaud Salman Rushdie’s commitment to this debate, both in his work and his public pronouncements, and will defend the right of all those in the creative arts to speak their imagination. I am currently preparing the first English translation of a fictional work by the Argentinian Haroldo Conti, who also suffered for his creative expressions, being “disappeared” by order of the military regime in 1976. 

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Ted Caylus

Fatwahs be damned! We are all Salman Rushdie.

Now, a united front against these continuous attempts to hold our Civilization to ransom.    

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Georgina Lansbury

Salman Rushdi, you have been trapped by the intolerance some have to freedom of expression. Hitler burned books. Dictators try to stamp out ideas. We have to stand behind you. 

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John Garth Raubenheimer

Sorrry to hear about this new threat to your life Mr Rushdie. It is an obscenity, a blow against all thinking people. Along with all writers, artists and poets, who are forever in your debt,  I deplore both the action of the Ayatollah Khomeini who issued the fatwa against you and this new statement by Ayatollah Hasan Sane’i. You have borne so much with such dignity.  Allow us to stand at your side. Together perhaps we can move all who think and read on this planet, to call shame on the cowardly assault on you.

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John Lloyd

In a passage in his new memoir, ‘Joseph Anton’, Salman Rushdie writes that he learned from his security detail – with whom, contrary to the efforts of some newspapers to prove that the members of the detail held him in contempt, he came to like and respect – that the most dangerous time for one under threat was when s/he exited from a building or a car. No security could guarantee that a gunman could not use that window of vulnerability. He writes that rather than ducking low and running, he would slow down and hold his head high. The memoir, and the testimony of those who know him, is that he rose to the threat of violent death with great courage: and will again. Rushdie also writes that Ayatollah Hassan Sanei ‘offered $1m in bounty money for the apostate’s head’ the first time round, more than 20 years ago: the latest ‘bounty’ shows that  this kind of hatred doesn’t diminish, but that at least the Ayatollah is keeping up with inflation.

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Hugh Haughton

The horrors of human intolerance, it seems, never diminish. The fact of the renewal of the forces of the fatwah against you only underlines the need to resist the tyranny of those afraid of the uncensored play of intellect and the investigative energies of genuine art. As Derek Mahon said, ‘who would trade self-knowledge for/ a prelapsarian metaphor,/ love-play of the ironic conscience/ for a prescriptive innocence?.
As a writer, like all serious writers, you have continued to stand for the force of the scriptive against the prescriptive and proscriptive. I am sorry that once more you are being exposed to murderous threats and ignorant abuse by those who think they are speaking for the moral values their violent words and actions betray.
Your example stands as an instance of heartening intellectual courage. Courage, mon vieux!

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Jonathan Moremi

“Freedom to write – Freedom to read”. The motto says it all. Radical culprits of all shades always need scapegoats to get to their means. Using Rushdie once more to incite hate and emotions makes their means become clear: power over people, power over their thoughts, power over the freedom of expression. By defending Salman Rushdie against this, one not only defends literature, that must have the right to stir emotions and to irritate the mind, but the human right to freedom of thought that can never be relinquished after what people of centuries were prepared to take upon them to make it possible. It is our duty to stand up for it in return when danger looms. Salman Rushdie says: “Nothing is off limits for literature.” How right he is. Defend him and you defend your own interests. Let us all do our utmost in showing support to ensure that one brave author will not have to pay the price for the freedom we all yearn for and that some fanatical extremists want to fight with all their evil means. 

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Miranda Miller

We must all defend Rushdie’s right to freedom of speech, which can never be taken for granted. His suffering during the years he was persecuted was a cruel destiny and if it is starting again we must actively support him.

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David Morgan

It is not possible to speak freely under
Fundamentalism, the freedom to write and speak ones
mind is therefore envied and hated by these cultures.
The threat to Salman Rushdie is a threat to all of us
who value our liberty.

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Ferial Evans Rogers

This is sacrilege.  These people (and it’s not all Muslims) use every excuse to stir up hatred.  They do this in the name of Allah yet Allah is a peaceful God and would rise above any presumed insult.  These people must not be allowed to stifle free speech.  Such action could silence other writers; thus this fatwa opens persuasion by corruption of most extreme and vicious means.

I wish for Salman Rushdie a speedy return to peace of mind

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