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British writer assassination : Salman Rushdie has always risked everything to tell the truth – Culture

It was a terrible shock when on Friday morning in Chautauqua, New York, a 24-year-old man approached Salman Rushdie and stabbed him more than 10 times on an open stage just before Rushdie was due to interview and give a lecture.

Rushdie is in mortal danger, the consequences for him are terrible, as his agent Andrew Wylie said on the night: “Salman will probably lose an eye; the nerves in his arm were severed and his liver was punctured and damaged.”

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The theme of the event at the Chautauqua Institution: The USA as a home for persecuted authors from all over the world, as a place that stands for the freedom of creative expression.

Salman Rushdie has been persecuted since 1989, since Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeni issued a fatwa following the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses.

In it there is an imaginary narrative of the early history of Islam. A figure describes the life of the prophet Mohamed, plagued by nightmares. For Khomeni a serious insult to Islam, the Prophet and the Koran.

Faceless mask torn off

From now on he would be “an invisible man with a faceless mask” – this is how Salman Rushdie described the first feelings after the death sentence against him in his autobiography “Joseph Anton”, published ten years ago. A life under police protection followed with frequent changes of residence, with name changes and identity denials.

But Rushdie has “ripped the faceless mask” off his head again. From then on he set himself the task of fighting for his profession, his writing: for the freedom of art, of the word, of reading. His credo, taken from a Joseph Conrad novel: “But I must live before I die, right?”

The private man Rushdie had disappeared behind the political issue “Rushdie”, he explained in “Joseph Anton”, “the gulf between what ‘Rushdie’ had to do and how ‘Salman’ wanted to live” had widened.

Is he there? as “Politics” at some point felt too safe, he believed that nothing would happen to him anymore? The fatwa was rescinded in 1999 by the then Iranian President Khatami, and yet fundamentalist Iranian circles have repeatedly put a “bounty” on his head. As Iran’s Deputy Culture Minister Sayyed Abbas Salehi said in 2016, “Khomeini’s fatwa is a religious decree that will never lose its force or fade away.”

It is astonishing that concerns about Rushdie were limited, particularly during the peak years of Islamist terror in the early and mid-1900s. But there was never any security for him, especially not after 9/11, which Rushdie processed in the novel “Rage”.

Always defend the written word

Friday’s assassination shows that it has always been a risk for him to leave the “prison” he described his life as in the 1990s and to attack religions “as a justification for oppression, spreading fear, tyranny and… committing atrocities,” as he has a character in his 2015 novel Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights put it.

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It is now speculated that the 24-year-old assassin, also because he has a Muslim background and is an Islamist-motivated violent criminal. But it could also have been a misguided Trump supporter, for example Rushdie made fun of Trump in his novel “Golden House”, or someone else: Salman Rushdie has been a symbol of freedom of expression, freedom of the spoken, written word since 1989 . This terrible attack on him applies to all authors in this world; it shows how endangered they are, how much risk they take when they tell the truth, point out grievances, turn against authoritarian structures.

As Salman Rushdie said after British playwright Harold Pinter died in 2008: “We will continue the work and will defend the written word and those who risk everything to tell the truth.”

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