Salman Rushdie wins the Freedom to Publish award at the British Book Awards

On August 11, 2022, Hadi Matar attacked author Salman Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York just as he was to deliver a keynote lecture. The stabbing, with repeated blows to Rushdie's stomach, arm, and face, left him blind in one eye and with nerve damage in his hand. In February, Penguin Random House published Rushdie's fifteenth novel, Victory City. Recently, Rushdie spoke by video about freedom of expression at the British Book Awards.

As reported by Alarabiya News,

"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.' He said that '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. Now I am sitting here in the US, I have to look at the extraordinary attack on libraries, and books for children in schools,' he said. '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.'"

You can see and listen to a post of the video here from The Bookseller, "The UK's definitive book industry magazine and website."

Rushdie had lived in hiding beginning in 1989 when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, declared a Fatwa and ordered his killing for what Rushdie wrote in "The Satanic Verses."

As reported by NPR, The Satanic Verses "centers on two Indian Muslims living in England. It reimagines parts of the Prophet Muhammad's life and in one section suggests that the founder of Islam may have flirted with polytheism. Whether that interpretation is backed up by Islamic texts has been disputed by historians, but in a 2012 interview with NPR's Morning Edition, the author said that was beside the point.

'My purpose was not to write only about Islam,' said Rushdie, who was born to a Muslim family. 'In my view, the story — as it exists in the novel — reflects rather well on the new idea of the religion being born because it shows that it actually may have flirted with compromise, but then rejected it; and when in triumph, it was pretty merciful."

For an overview and timeline of the Fatwa's impact on Rushdie's life, check out "Attack On Salman Rushdie: A Look At Events Since The Issuance Of The Fatwa" from Outlook India.

The New Yorker recently published this profile of Rushdie. You can also check out the first interview with Rushdie after the attack by David Krasnow on The New Yorker Radio Hour, "Salman Rushdie on Surviving the Fatwa."