Salman Rushdie Warns of Threats to Freedom of Expression in Rare Address

Renowned author Salman Rushdie delivers a passionate message on the importance of freedom of expression in the West

In a highly anticipated public address, celebrated author Salman Rushdie, who suffered a stabbing incident on stage nine months ago, expressed grave concerns about the state of freedom of expression in the Western world. The 75-year-old author delivered his message via video at the British Book Awards, where he was honored with the prestigious Freedom to Publish award.

Rushdie, who was left blinded in one eye as a result of the attack during a literary festival in New York, rose to prominence with his controversial 1988 novel, "The Satanic Verses." The book, deemed blasphemous by some Muslims, swiftly faced bans in several countries and ignited global protests at bookstores.

Notably, Iran's leader even issued a fatwa in 1989, calling for Rushdie's assassination and offering a staggering $3 million bounty on his head. Reflecting on his experiences, Rushdie emphasized the critical juncture facing freedom of expression in the Western world.

Speaking from the United States, Rushdie expressed his concern over the "extraordinary attack on libraries and books for children in schools." He further highlighted the alarming assault on the very idea of libraries. Urging vigilance, Rushdie stressed the importance of actively combating these threats to freedom of expression.

The acclaimed author also criticized the contemporary practice of rewriting older books to remove language considered offensive, asserting that literature should be embraced in its original context. He argued, "Books should come to us from their time and be of their time. And if that's difficult to take, don't read it, read another book."

During his appearance, Rushdie wore sunglasses, with one lens tinted to conceal his injured eye, and appeared visibly thinner than usual. Prior to the attack in New York, Rushdie had been scheduled to deliver a speech on how the United States had provided a safe haven for writers facing persecution.

The Freedom to Publish award, bestowed upon Rushdie by the British Book Awards, recognizes the unwavering determination of authors, publishers, and booksellers who stand against intolerance despite the ongoing threats they face.

Salman Rushdie's impassioned address serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving and defending freedom of expression, a fundamental pillar of democratic societies. As the literary world continues to grapple with these challenges, Rushdie's words resonate as a call to action for all those who value open dialogue and the unrestricted exchange of ideas.
Staff Writer