The sickening attack on Salman Rushdie illustrates the awesome price which sometimes has to be paid for exercising one’s right to freedom of expression.
It should prompt everyone to be ever vigilant in ensuring that in every context and in every public discourse in which they find themselves, this right is universally respected.
This would also be an appropriate way of acknowledging the renowned author’s remarkable courage and integrity, as he not only exercises this right but continues to be a champion of it.
J Anthony Gaughan, President of Irish PEN
John Fitzgerald tries to stand up for Salman Rushdie’s freedom of speech (‘Violence, or the threat of it, should never stifle free speech’, Letters, August 15) but stumbles when he says: “The attack on Salman Rushdie serves as a stark reminder that freedom of speech is a right we dare not take for granted. Mr Rushdie’s literary achievements are not, of course, to be confused with the hate messages we see every day on social media.”
This implicit endorsement of circumstances under which the freedom of speech may be curtailed demonstrates why the freedom of speech ought to be absolute or not at all.
“Hate” is a subjective standard, where what might be a reasonable criticism or crude observation can be interpreted as hateful by the recipient. In this instance, the Ayatollah of Iran disagrees with Mr Fitzgerald as to the quality of Mr Rushdie’s work and seems to believe that The Satanic Verses are deeply hateful, going far beyond social media.
This is nonsense of course, but so is the notion that Rushdie or anybody should be legally or extrajudicially punished for causing offence to someone else, however grossly.
In yesterday’s Editorial on the tragic, almost fatal, assault on Salman Rushdie (‘An attack on free speech that should disturb us all’ Irish Independent, August 15), there was one outstanding paragraph.
“It has been said that the average man or woman does not want to be free – they just want to be safe. However, if societies have no safe place for artists like Salman Rushdie, they will be neither.”
The arts today are more cherished than in earlier times.
Those who study the history of the arts in Ireland are aware of the vital role they played in awakening the imagination of the Irish nation. They created the means to achieve independence from the British empire of the day.
In recent days – lamentably late, but thankful for it – much has been published in Irish media on the “father of the nation” Arthur Griffith (1871-1922).
Griffith, like many of his colleagues and friends, was an enthusiast of Irish “arts and culture”.
“The father” of this movement was Standish James O’Grady (1846-1928) who brought an awareness of the Celtic history of Ireland by publishing The History of Ireland, in 1878.
Sadly naivete leads to attacks on the Salman Rushdies of this world.
Thus, it is vital that people peruse broadly on any and every subject they desire to learn about. Knowledge must be passed on to allow us to be “free and safe”.
When eight- and 10-year-old children are in tears over the present heatwaves, forest fires and flooding, you know it is time to act – and quickly.
As a species, we have known about global warming and its connection to various emissions under our control for decades but have lacked the political or moral courage to fully address the things we must do to arrest and, ultimately, reverse the situation.
China and the US, two of the biggest polluters, are still really only making noises and it is only when those countries come to grips with the Earth’s problems will we see any real progress.
The less said about little old Ireland, the better. We have an abysmal record, and it’s not all down to the national cattle herd.
With the recent sunny spell, we have seen more tans in this country than we had in 1921.
Beaumont, Dublin 9