Hvad siger det om vestlige demokratier, at de ikke beskytter deres borgeres ytringsfrihed?
Writers in the US are standing up for free speech
What does it say about Western democracies if they do not protect their citizens’ freedom of expression?
This Friday prominent American writers like Paul Auster and his wife Siri Hustvedt gathered on the stairs in front of The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue under the slogan “Stand with Salman: Defend the Freedom to Write.” (“In solidarity with Salman Rushdie: Defend the right to write freely.”)
A week ago, Salman Rushdie was stabbed during a literary event north of New York City when a man jumped on stage and stabbed him several times with a knife. Ironically, Rushdie was about to talk about how the United States is a safe heaven for writers who cannot stay safely in their own countries.
For more than thirty years, Salman Rushdie has lived a life with security guards 24/7 – simply because he did what writers do – used his creativity in a literary work. In one such experiment he played with the idea that the holy book of the Muslim faith, the Koran, was not divinely inspired but rather the result of a whispers from Satan. For that work, The Satanic Verses, he garnered a fatwa from Iran’s top Islamic leader that encouraged any Muslim to murder Rushdie. In addition, a bounty of 3 million dollars was put on his head.
For more than thirty years, Rushdie has lived with the knowledge that radicalized Muslims all over the world had a desire to kill him or would rejoice if others did. Rushdie moved from Europe to the United States, where he, for more than twenty years, was almost able to live a normal life. Until now.
Unfortunately, he is not the only one who has had to move from Europe because he criticized Islam. As Europe becomes more Islamized, several people with inside knowledge of Islam have spoken out and problematized various cultural and value attitudes that are not compatible with Western, free democracies. For their outspokenness, they have received death threats. Several have even paid the ultimate price. In several cases, the European governments have not wanted to spend the financial means needed to protect people who spoke against Islam. For example , Ayaan Hirshi Ali, who is originally from Somalia and became a politician and critic of Islam in the Netherlands, also had to move to the United States because her Dutch homeland could not guarantee her safety.
When an author, journalist, comedian or writer is attacked for what he or she has as a profession, namely his words, what does he have left?
“An attack on a writer, cartoonist, comedian, politician, or public figure because of his or her statements and writing is an attack on each and every one of us who believe in democratic values.
Salman Rushdie has never compromised on his beliefs, but has again and again and again pleaded for the right to express himself freely. He has done this with intellectual depth and quirky humor. Despite living under a constant threat, he has helped other writers and intellectuals who were in vulnerable positions because they spoke out against authoritarian regimes or extreme religious groups. Most recently, he has joined a network that helps Ukrainian writers.
It shouldn’t be necessary to say. But these days, writers and other creative souls cannot freely use their creativity and write without fear. All over the world there is a keen sense of awareness that when you speak out or write critically about totalitarian regimes and Islam, there might be a price of violence to pay.
Our rights and freedoms here in the West are more fragile than we dare to admit. Because if we admit that premise, then we also admit that our societal model and form of government have failed. If we can only feel safe within the borders of our own countries, when we shut down criticism, turn a blind eye, and refuse to speak out on specific subjects, and self-censor ourselves, then the rights we think we have are a hollow illusion.
We are faced with a choice: we can remain silent in fear. Or we can do as the writers who, without face coverings and with their names clearly stated today on the steps in the heart of New York to the library that contains thousands of books – all the result of a creative, free process, refuse to let violence destroy the principles we believe in.
An attack on a writer, cartoonist, comedian, politician or public figure because of his or her statements and writing is an attack on each and every one of us who believe in democratic values in a society with individual liberties.
May the voices that dare to speak against regimes of violence, hatred and religion never remain silent when threatened! May we fight for them to be able to write and say what they wish without fear of reprisals. And may our western democratic states wake up soon, so that you don’t have to be brave to express yourself freely. #StandWithSalman