The insults against the memory of the writers, editors, and artists who were murdered by Islamic extremists in Paris earlier this year continue apace. The New York Times reports:
The decision by PEN American Center to give its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has prompted six writers to withdraw as literary hosts at the group’s annual gala on May 5, adding a new twist to the continuing debate over the publication’s status as a martyr for free speech.
The novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn from the gala, at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Gerard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor in chief, and Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a Charlie Hebdo staff member who arrived late for work on Jan. 7 and missed the attack by Islamic extremists that killed 12 people, are scheduled to accept the award.
Oddly, in announcing their withdrawal, the authors in question accuse Charlie Hebdo of insulting “Muslims” – wrongly conflating mocking religious beliefs with directly attacking their adherents.
Alas, this is hardly the first time that people who use of freedom of speech to make a living have failed to defend it. After Ayatollah Khomeini put out a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie in 1989 (Rushdie had committed the grave offense of writing a novel), John le Carre, Roald Dahl, and sundry other writers rushed to condemn their fellow author.
Rushdie weighed in on this latest calumny:
Salman Rushdie, a former PEN president who lived in hiding for years after a fatwa in response to his novel “The Satanic Verses,” said the issues were perfectly clear. Mr. Ondaatje and Mr. Carey were old friends of his, he said, but they are “horribly wrong.”
“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”