The Banned Books Week Coalition is an international alliance of organizations joined in a commitment to increase awareness of the freedom to read. The coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship.
Humanist Society of Scotland
Join Humanist Society of Scotland for an online evening of discussion to mark Banned Books Week 2022. In light of the recent horrific attack on Salman Rushdie and the increase in book banning in schools in the US driven by Christian fundamentalists, we wanted to create an event that highlights religious censorship of books. OMG, you can’t write that! Books, Censorship, and Religion
The panel discussion will be hosted by our CEO Fraser Sutherland and will include playwright and Lyceum artistic director David Greig, cartoonist and Executive Director of Cartoonists Rights Network International Terry Anderson, Emma Wadsworth-Jones of Humanists International and formerly of PEN International, and Professor Emerita of Royal Conservatoire Scotland, theatre director, and co-chair of Humanist Society Scotland Maggie Kinloch. The panel discussion will be followed by an audience Q&A.
The event is free to attend, with donations to the legal fund of former Scottish Award for Humanism winner Mubarak Bala welcomed. Bala is serving a 24 year sentence in Nigeria after being found guilty in 2022 of 18 counts of public disturbance in relation to a ‘blasphemous’ Facebook post that he wrote.
On 12 August 2022, Salman Rushdie was brutally attacked and severely injured during a speaking event in Chautauqua, New York. As a publication devoted to humanism and human rights – including the right to freedom of expression which is so fundamentally linked to this situation – HumanistFreedoms.com condemns the attack and expresses hope for Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie’s best possible recovery.
While there are many stories about the attack in mainstream media providing reports of the attempted murder, the attacker’s name and hints to his motivation, these particulars seem to be little more than incidental to the attack. There seems to be little point in re-sharing information that is so readily available . Indeed, there seems to be much more sense in focusing on who the attacker was in the bigger picture. This latest attacker was nothing other than the inevitable and violent hand of extremist ideology.
Some of us at HumanistFreedoms.com had the opportunity and privilege to attend Rushdie’s reading from one of his novels when he visited the Toronto Public Library in 2015. It was a lovely and engaging evening – exactly the way attending a reading ought to be. The way the event in Chautauqua ought to have been. A room full of mostly mild, curious and intelligent individuals; a brief and charming interview; an author sharing their own voice with those who wished to hear it. It was the kind of thing Rushdie had so clearly been doing for many previous years and clearly expected to do for many future years as well. After all, who goes to hear an author speak other than those who want to hear what he has written and may have to say about it?
It is not possible, however, to have attended a reading by Salman Rushdie without being aware that he had lived under the threat of attack and assassination since 1989 when a fanatical ideologue and politician issued a faith-based assassination order against him. His conversation never seems to be far from that simple fact nor from the implications that it carried: sometimes people attend these events to prevent others from hearing the things that may be said.
The fact that the fanatical politician/ideologue/religious leader who had ordered the assassination happened to be a high ranking Shia clergy member and the “supreme leader” of a nation ought to have been enough to keep fanaticism and the perpetual probability of violence on anybody’s mind. In 1989, someone tried to complete the assassination and blew himself (and some of a hotel) up. Apparently there is a shrine in Tehran describing the person
as a “martyr”. in other words, a religious hero.
Fanaticism is a state that must be developed, encouraged and maintained. It must be cultivated. The fanatic and their cultivator each bear a portion of the responsibility for any violence which they promote and enact. To claim anything else is cowardice, at best – but more probably an indicator of traits worse by far than mere cowardice.
In the Iranian government’s first public comment on this more recent attack, its foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said “Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie, we do not consider anyone other than [Rushdie] and his supporters worthy of blame and even condemnation.” The message is clear when it comes to ideologues. Cross them and you’ll get what they think you deserve.
But not everyone is like that. Not everyone flinches from truth.
The attacker’s mother had some different perspectives to offer, “As I said to the FBI I’m not going to bother talking to him again. He’s responsible for his actions. I have another two minors that I need to take care of. They are upset, they’re shocked. All we can do is try to move on from this, without him.“
Only a few things more need to be said in context of an initial reaction to this brutality. Violence is the inevitable conclusion when extremist ideology, and let us emphasize any extremist ideology, is left unchecked, when fanatics are allowed to persist in delusions that their opinions and preferences cannot be challenged, when destroying another human being is considered a morally-entitled response to being offended.
And what do the humanist organizations have to say so far? We might have wished for more…and more emphatic than what we have been able to locate so far (Frankly, Rex Murphy seems to have done a better job of it). But we searched several prominent English-language humanist organizations with Salman Rushdie’s name and here is what we found on 2022/08/16
Unrelated to the attempted slaughter of an author by the violent hand of ideologues, one of our humanist mentors had recently shared a quotation from Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”