Salman Rushdie slams critics of PEN’s Charlie Hebdo tribute, calls them 'pussies' on Twitter

Courting controversy, PEN has declared that this year they will award the Freedom of Expression Courage award to Charlie Hebdo. Soon after this news was announced six writers have withdrawn as literary hosts of the 2015 PEN American Center gala, criticizing the organization’s choice to honor satirical weekly newspaper. The move elicited an immediate reaction from renowned author Salman Rushdie who came out on Twitter to call it “horribly wrong.”

 Salman Rushdie slams critics of PEN’s Charlie Hebdo tribute, calls them pussies on Twitter

Salman Rushdie. AFP.

The writers—Peter Carey, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose and Taiye Selasi—believe it’s inappropriate to honour the publication as its depiction of Islam has often been offensive, the New York Times reports.  They told the literary and human rights organisation they will not attend its 5 May event.

The Globe & Mail reports:

“I was quite upset as soon as I heard about (the award),” Prose, a former PEN American president, told The Associated Press during a telephone interview Sunday night. Prose said she was in favour of “freedom of speech without limitations” and that she “deplored” the January shootings, but added that giving an award signified “admiration and respect” for the honoree’s work.

“I couldn’t imagine being in the audience when they have a standing ovation for Charlie Hebdo,” Prose said.

Salman Rushdie made his disagreement immediately apparent:  “The award will be given. PEN is holding firm. Just 6 pussies. Six Authors in Search of a bit of Character,” Rushdie wrote on Twitter on 27 April. He also called them “six authors in search of a bit of character”.

When he received flak for his language, he later came out and apologised for the use of the word stating, it was mentioned in a tweet he chose to reply to and retracted his statement. He didn't however delete the tweet.

“If PEN as a free-speech organisation can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organisation is not worth the name,” Rushdie said in The Guardian. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Rushdie said in an email to The Associated Press that PEN is "quite right" to honour the Charlie Hebdo artists killed during a January shooting at the magazine's Paris offices. Rushdie was forced into hiding for years over death threats related to his novel, "The Satanic Verses." In the aftermath of the Hebdo attack, he released a statement saying, "I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity."

This is not the first time the writer has hit out at individuals on Twitter. More recently, Rushdie hit back at Bhalchandra Nemade, winner of the 50th Jnanpith Award who raised questions about the literary merit of some of Rashdie's  works.

A very angry Rushdie tweeted: "Grumpy old b*****d. Just take your prize and say thank you nicely. I doubt you've even read the work you attack."


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Updated Date: Apr 28, 2015 11:22:32 IST