We never all agreed

Salman Rushdie on the Je Reste Charlie project.

It is important that we take a stand. That we stand firm. That we say: This is the world in which we want to live. And in order to live in this world, it must be all right for these cartoons to exist. We must not try to apologize for them. We must also not try to excuse the attack on Charlie Hebdo, by showing understanding for the attackers. Stand firm! If we want to live in an open society, then the acceptance of such cartoons is part of this. What would a respectful cartoon look like? The form as such doesn’t exist. The form of a cartoon demands disrespect. Satire requires us to make fun of people, to laugh at them. Whoever they may be. The more powerful they are, the better. Stand firm! This is what it’s all about. It is important that we say today: This is the boundary line. It may not be erased.

However, there is a combination between a mood of appeasement and political correctness in the air currently, especially on the left. This was demonstrated recently, when the writers’ association PEN wanted to honor the Charlie Hebdo magazine for its courage in fighting for freedom of expression – and a number of writers protested. Many of them found the assassination in Paris terrible, but honoring the survivors they found to be self-righteous, moreover it would hurt the feelings of Muslims. There it was again – this but. I found it strange that this attitude had now been articulated by left-wing writers. I knew many of them, I was friends with some of them – Peter Carey or Michael Ondaatje for example. Following the publication of my novel “The Satanic Verses” and everything that followed, I had to listen to similar accusations to those which are today being expressed towards Charlie Hebdo. “Rushdie knew exactly what he was doing”, it was often suggested, “he was provoking deliberately.” Or: “He only did it to become rich and famous.” The bulk of these accusations at that time came from people who were politically on the right. Today, it is the left-wingers who are making almost the same allegations about the satirists at Charlie Hebdo. I think that this is a strange development.

The people at Charlie Hebdo didn’t and don’t like every single cartoon. They dislike some of them. Imagine that!  Jean-Baptiste Thoret told Salman that at the PEN gala.

Jean-Baptiste Thoret told me something very significant that evening: “If people don’t like our cartoons, this is something we can discuss. Perhaps I don’t even like them myself. In our editorial office we were and are constantly arguing about what we should publish and what we shouldn’t. We never all agreed. Every one of us always disliked the half of what we published. It is not a question of whether or not you like the cartoons. If you don’t like them, then come here and tell us. On that one specific detail that you don’t like, perhaps I’m on your side. Or perhaps not.”

Every one of us always disliked the half of what we published. But they didn’t shun each other for liking or disliking half of what they published.

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