A bunch of “pussies” who lacked “character”. That is the free character analysis offered by author Salman Rushdie for the group of six fellow writers who decided to boycott a Freedom of Expression award due to their reservations about Charlie Hebdo.
The six withdrew from the American PEN Center gala awards dinner in New York, an annual event thrown by the literary and freedom of expression group, after it was announced the centre would give its Freedom of Expression Courage award to Charlie Hebdo. The French satirical magazine has received a raft of awards this year after its uncompromising attitude to Islam was used as justification by Islamist terrorists to execute the editorial team and a number of contributors.
Double Man Booker Prize-winning author Peter Carey was one of those who decided to withdraw from the awards. The Australian blamed the attack on French “arrogance”, remarking: “a hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom-of-speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about?”
“All this is complicated by PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognise its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population”.
Replying that the award would go on without Carey and the others, Rushdie responded in uncompromising language: “The award will be given. PEN is holding firm. Just 6 pussies. Six Authors in Search of a bit of Character”.
The Daily Telegraph reports the further comments of Rushdie, who responded to the suggestion that France somehow had it coming, remarking: “This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority.
“It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well-funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence.
“These six writers have made themselves the fellow travellers of that project. Very, very bad move”.
Rushdie himself was forced to go into hiding in the 1980’s after his book about the life of Mohammad, The Satanic Verses, was criticised by Muslim groups and a fatwa, or death sentence was issued against him. Although he now appears in public, Rushdie has never fully emerged from hiding, and remains under constant threat of death.
Others were less lucky. Publishers and translators involved in the work were the subjects of assassination attempts, with the Japanese translator murdered in 1991. Others were shot by Islamist extremists but survived.