Salman Rushdie warns free expression under threat, in rare address

The author receives British "Freedom to Publish" award speaks on Twitter, nine months after stabbing attack by Muslim zealot, that leaves him blind in one eye, after years under threat by Iranian mullahs, for his writing

Associated Press|

Salman Rushdie medivac after stabbing
Writer Salman Rushdie has made a public speech, nine months after being stabbed and seriously injured onstage by a Muslim zealot, warning that freedom of expression in the West is under its most severe threat in his lifetime.
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סלמן רושדי
סלמן רושדי
Salman Rushdie
(Photo: Twitter)
Rushdie delivered a video message to the British Book Awards, where he was awarded the Freedom to Publish award on Monday evening. Organizers said the honor "acknowledges the determination of authors, publishers and booksellers who take a stand against intolerance, despite the ongoing threats they face."
"We live in a moment, I think, at which freedom of expression, freedom to publish has not in my lifetime been under such threat in the countries of the West," Rushdie said. "Now I am sitting here in the U.S., I have to look at the extraordinary attack on libraries, and books for children in schools. The attack on the idea of libraries themselves. It is quite remarkably alarming, and we need to be very aware of it, and to fight against it very hard," he said.
Rushdie, 75, was blinded in one eye and suffered nerve damage to his hand when he was attacked at a literary festival in New York State in August. His alleged assailant, Hadi Matar, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and attempted murder.
Rushdie spent years in hiding with police protection after Iran's Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, in 1989 calling for his death over the alleged blasphemy of the novel “The Satanic Verses."
In his speech, Rushdie also criticized publishers who change decades-old books for modern sensibilities, such as large-scale cuts and rewrites to the works of children's author Roald Dahl and James Bond creator Ian Fleming.
He said publishers should allow books "to 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," he said.
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