Salman Rushdie said: “My weapon is language”

The British-American writer Salman Rushdie, of Indian origin, really hoped he had put all this behind him forever. Personal security, public controls. All of this was necessary again since August 12, 2022, when the author almost died in a knife attack in New York, United States. Thus, thirty-five years after the fatwa of the then Iranian revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” as blasphemous, he was once again unwantedly in the crosshairs of the whole world ( **).

See alsoWho is Salman Rushdie, the writer threatened with death and stabbed in New York?

Before going on stage at the Deutsches Theater, invited by the Berlin International Literature Festival, Rushdie met – in complete secrecy – with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and, later, also with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The latter expressed his deep respect for Rushdie for remaining a passionate defender of democracy and freedom.

Love and humor against hate

About six hundred people turned out to see Rushdie live. A reading and conversation had been announced about his latest book: “The Knife. Reflections after an Assassination Attempt.” “I’m happy to be here,” Rushdie told the audience, which greeted him with thunderous applause, “although unfortunately I can’t see you.” This is because the writer lost one eye in the attack, and his vision in the other is limited. Quickly, it became clear that Rushdie has not lost his sense of humor.

During the evening, Rushdie described how he experienced the assassination attempt and the days that followed as doctors fought for his life. Not only did he lose an eye, but his organs were injured and his nerves were severed. He was given artificial ventilation and at first it was not at all clear whether he would survive and under what conditions. How did he fight his way back to life after that?

With a lot of willpower and a lot of love, as Rushdie never tires of emphasizing. The love of his sister, his children, but above all that of his wife Rachel Eliza Griffiths, herself a poet and artist, who also accompanies him on this literary tour.

Writing as therapy

After weeks in hospital, painful treatment and rehabilitation, things progressively improved over the following months, and Rushdie realized he had to get back to writing. Writing as therapy. This includes remembering the attack, dealing with his pain and injuries, but also dealing with the perpetrator of the attack.

Even in Berlin, Rushdie simply calls him “A”, after the initial of assassin. At first he thought about meeting him. But after reading that the young man did not even know his book and had only seen some inflammatory videos on YouTube, he refrained from doing so. If he had invented such a fictional character, Rushdie jokes, my editor would have said: unbelievable, he is not a convincing figure.

See alsoSalman Rushdie published his first photo on social networks after the attack

“Cuchillo” is a moving book about survival after an assassination attempt. It is also Salman Rushdie’s attempt to regain control of his life, to respond to the knife attack with his own means, with the only weapon he knows how to use, the weapon of language, he explains in Berlin. And with this weapon he continues to fight for freedom of expression and literature.

The Berlin public celebrates Rushdie for his strength, his humor and also for his important message. This evening made it clear once again that Rushdie is paying a terrible price for this.

In honor of the wise Averroes

Ahmed Salman Rushdie is about to turn 77 years old. He was born in Bombay, India, on June 19, 1947, just two months before India gained independence from British colonial rule, into a wealthy Kashmiri family of Muslim culture, although his father, Anis Ahmed Rushdie, a businessman who had studied in Cambridge, England, was not a believer. His mother, Negin Butt, was a teacher. In his home, both English, the main language of culture of the young Indian nation, and Urdu were spoken.

In 1989, Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini sentenced him to death with a fatwa for his novel “The Satanic Verses.” For years Rushdie lived under police protection in various hideouts, however, in 2022, a young Islamist attempted to kill him with a knife. Today, Salman is considered a passionate defender of freedom of expression.

The surname Rushdie, in reality, was an invention of his father, Anis, who adopted this decision in honor of the admiration he felt for the great wise Abu Ibn-Rusd (Averroes), whom he considered a thinker, who was at the vanguard of the rationalist argument against Islamic literalism. Averroes (1126-1198) was an Andalusian Muslim philosopher, doctor and polymath, teacher of Islamic philosophy and law, mathematics, astronomy and medicine.

Material published by the Dutch Welle Agency and adapted for Diario El Litoral.

(**) A fatwa or fatwa is a legal pronouncement in Islam, issued by a specialist in religious law on a specific issue. Generally, a fatwa is issued upon a request that an individual or a judge settle an issue where fiqh (i.e. Islamic jurisprudence) is unclear. A scholar capable of issuing a fatwa is known as a mufti.
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