Salman Rushdie on Charlie Hebdo: ‘Vilifying … These Fallen Artists’ Is ‘Disgraceful’

From In These Times:

The target of an infamous fatwa weighs in on satire, free speech and religion.

By Terry J. Allen
January 15, 2015

A week after two gunmen massacred staff at the offices of the Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, author Salman Rushdie came to Vermont on a bitterly cold January day. He’d been invited to give a speech for Vermont Reads, a Humanities Council program that annually selects one book—this year, Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Storiesto spark statewide discussion.

In the question period that followed his talk, Rushdie, was asked about Charlie Hebdo. A writer with hard-won insight into the clash of satire, free speech and religion, Rushdie spent years in hiding, under police protection, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a 1989 fatwa against him. Essentially an assassination order, it condemned Rushdie for blaspheming Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses, which included a less than hagiographic portrayal of Muhammad.

Just after the Charlie Hebdo murders, Rushdie issued a much-shared statement that read in part, “Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today.”

Rushdie expanded his thoughts on the conflict between church/mosque and free speech in an interview with Vermont Public Radio: “The victory of the French Enlightenment was a victory over the church and not the state. And out of that came the modern idea of free expression. So now you could argue that we’re having a similar battle but different religion, different church, but same argument.”

In answer to a question about satire, Rushdie told the packed house at the University of Vermont:

If you are a writer, it’s kind of like if you’re a composer, you would have an orchestra to compose for, and sometimes you write more for the strings and sometimes more for the keyboard, and you don’t have to write for the same  thing every time you compose. In the same way when you’re  writing, you don’t always write for the same part of the orchestra. And so satire is one of the tools and it’s a very important one. And actually  in the history of France, it’s been enormously important ever since the French Revolution. Some of the first really powerful satirical pieces in the French history were [pamphlets]—the sheet that was distributed in the street, attacking Marie Antoinette after she encouraged people to eat cake, which was very bad for their health. So there was a kind of early gluten-free satire at that time.

The French satirical tradition has always been very pointed and very harsh. And still is, you know. And the thing that I really resent is the way in which these, our dead comrades, these people who died— using the same implement that I use, which is the pen or a pencil—have been almost immediately vilified and called racists and I don’t know what else. Which is a dreadful crime against their memory.

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Protesters in Iran chant ‘Death to France’ over Mohammed cartoon

From Raw Story:

19 Jan 2015

More than 2,000 Iranians protested Monday outside the French embassy in Tehran, chanting “Death to France” and urging the ambassador be expelled because of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

The demonstration was in response to French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s use of the cartoon in an edition published a week after 12 people were killed by Islamist gunmen at its Paris offices.

The image has angered many Muslims as depictions of Mohammed are widely considered forbidden in Islam, and has triggered protests in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, some of which turned deadly.

Iran denounced the Paris massacre but it also condemned the magazine’s new cartoon, where the prophet holds a “Je suis Charlie” sign under the heading “All is forgiven”.

Plans for Monday’s protest led the French ambassador to announce that the embassy, located in busy downtown Tehran, would be closed all day.

The gathering, organised by students but attended by all age groups, was given a heavy security detail of around 150 Iranian police, and although noisy it passed off peacefully after two hours.

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Letter to an antisemite

From Times of Israel:

Fred Maroun
January 12, 2015

I received your message the other day.  Thank you for taking the time to write.  You asked me why I, a non-Jew, speak so loudly about antisemitism.  You said that I make too much of a big deal about Israel.  You said that lots of people are anti-Zionist without being antisemitic,even Jews!  You said that antisemitism is not really a problem, and that the Holocaust should be left alone in the history books.  You said that I should forget about the outdated issue of antisemitism.

I regret that my support for Israel offends you and that my opposition to antisemitism disturbs you, but I will reply to your recommendations by asking you some questions.

Since you are an educated person, you must be aware of the overwhelming evidence that Israel is isolated, demonized, singled out, and boycotted for the sole reason that it is the Jewish state.  Why do you choose to ignore this antisemitism?

When someone makes callous remarks about the Jewish nation being “that shitty little country”, do you nod enthusiastically?

When someone arrogantly declares that Israel is a Western imperialist power on the land where Jews have lived for over three thousand years, do you agree?

When someone scornfully announces that Israel’s settlements building is an obstacle to peace even though Palestinians have rejected multiple attempts at a two-state solution, do you respond with approval?

When someone self-importantly condemns Israel’s security barrier, claiming that it is racist, do you acquiesce?

When someone condescendingly makes claims of “apartheid” in Israel, the only country in the Middle East where the rights of religious and ethnic minorities are respected, do you approve?

When someone disdainfully proclaims that Israel is engaged in genocide in Gaza every time it dares defend itself against terrorism, do you smile in agreement?

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When Parents Are Criminalized: Couple In Trouble for Letting Their Kids Walk Unsupervised

From Alternet:

Authorities tell parents they may lose their kids; tell kids a stranger will grab them.

By Cliff Weathers
January 15, 2015

A Maryland couple is in trouble with law authorities because they let their kids walk around the neighborhood without hovering over them.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv say that their neighbors have called the local police and Child Protective Services because their children, ages 10 and 6, have been spotted walking to two area playgrounds without adult supervision. One playground is a mile away from the Meitiv’s home in Silver Springs, while the other is just two blocks down.

In a letter to, Danielle Meitiv recalls a December 20 incident involving the police:

“On a Saturday afternoon in December, my husband, Alexander, gave our kids permission to walk home from the local playground. I was out of town at the time. When they’d walked about halfway, a Montgomery County Police patrol car pulled up. A ‘helpful’ neighbor had called 911 to report unaccompanied children walking outside. Our kids were brought home in a police cruiser.

At the door the police officer asked to see my husband’s ID, but did not explain why. When he refused, she called for backup.

A total of six patrol cars showed up.”

The Meitivs say that law enforcement authorities and social services representatives have questioned their children while at school, and without their knowledge or consent and that the investigation infringes on their rights as parents to raise their children in a manner that they see fit. The parents also say the authorities asked their 10-year-old son what he would do if seized by a strange adult. According to Alexander Meitiv, they told his son that “there are creeps out there that are just waiting to grab children if they’re walking by themselves.”

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