Salman Rushdie attack proves free speech is on a life support machine in ‘free’ societies

salman rushdie attack proves free speech is on a life support machine in ‘free’ societies

THE attack on Salman Rushdie is a bloody reminder that intolerance has a knife at the throat of freedom of expression.

Not only in Putin’s Russia or Afghanistan under the Taliban, but also in America and the free West.

salman rushdie attack proves free speech is on a life support machine in ‘free’ societies

Salman Rushdie attack proves free speech is on a life support machine in 'free' societies, writes Mick HumeCredit: Getty

The British author was stabbed as he prepared to speak about the importance of the US as a refuge for persecuted writers.

Just hours later, JK Rowling was warned “you are next” after simply tweeting she hoped ­Rushdie would be OK.

In this age of spittle-flecked hatred, that was enough.

Rushdie has been a courageous champion of our most precious liberty for more than three decades.

He stood up to both Islamist extremists who want to kill free speech, and woke Western culture warriors who want to cancel it.

In 1989, in response to Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Iran issued a fatwa, sentencing him to death for blasphemy.

Rushdie continued to write and to speak out for freedom of expression.

But too many Western politicians, intellectuals and writers refused to unequivocally defend him.

In 2015, Islamist gunmen murdered staff at French satirical mag Charlie Hebdo.

The writers’ organisation American PEN staged an event to honour the dead but several top writers boycotted it, claiming Charlie was “Islamophobic”.

Rushdie told them: “If you believe in the value of free speech, then you must believe in the value of free speech that you don’t like.”

In Britain, we’ve abolished our outdated ­blasphemy laws.

Yet over the past 30 years, an informal ban on “blaspheming” against Islam has taken hold of Western culture.

As we send all best wishes to Rushdie, let us also recognise free speech — the lifeblood of democracy — is on a life support machine in our supposedly free societies.

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