The PJ Tatler

Salman Rushdie on the 'Pu**ies' Boycotting Award for Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo will be honored with the 2015 PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award at the PEN Literary Gala on May 5, causing several writers to plan on no-showing the gala because of the satirical magazine’s content.

The writers planning to protest include Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Peter Carey, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi.

Prose, who used to lead PEN’s American chapter, told the Associated Press she was “quite upset” about the award to the magazine that has mocked Muhammad. “I couldn’t imagine being in the audience when they have a standing ovation for Charlie Hebdo,” she said.

“A hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom-of-speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about?” Carey told the New York Times. “All this is complicated by PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.”

Salman Rushdie, whose life has been under threat from an Iranian fatwa since 1989, told the New York Times that the writers are “horribly wrong” for ditching the event.

“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,” Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

On Twitter, Rushdie elaborated:



PEN president and author Andrew Solomon wrote Sunday that “only a handful of people are willing to put themselves in peril to build a world in which we are all free to say what we believe.”

“Charlie Hebdo has positioned itself in the firing line of this battle, refusing to accept the curtailment of lawful speech by those who meet it with violence. It is undoubtedly true that in addition to provoking violent threats from extremists, the Hebdo cartoons offended some other Muslims and members of the many other groups they targeted. Indeed, were the Hebdo cartoonists not satirical in their genesis and intent, their content and images might offend most or all of us. But, based on their own statements, we believe that Charlie Hebdo’s intent was not to ostracize or insult Muslims, but rather to reject forcefully the efforts of a small minority of radical extremists to place broad categories of speech off limits—no matter the purpose, intent, or import of the expression,” Solomon continued.

“…We do not believe that any of us must endorse the content of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons in order to affirm the importance of the medium of satire, or to applaud the staff’s bravery in holding fast to those values in the face of life and death threats.”