Monday 22 January 2018

Trump free to be 'offensive and bigoted' in Britain - JK Rowling

JK Rowling has no objection to Donald Trump coming to the UK (AP)
JK Rowling has no objection to Donald Trump coming to the UK (AP)

JK Rowling has said her passion for free expression is so strong it extends to someone she would otherwise not care to discuss - Donald Trump.

Speaking before hundreds in New York at PEN America's annual gala at the American Museum of Natural History, the Harry Potter author noted that she opposed a recent petition calling for banning the Republican US presidential hopeful from entering the UK, saying such actions endangered everyone's rights.

"I find almost everything that Mr Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted," said Rowling, who received PEN's Literary Service Award for her "extraordinary creativity" and her efforts on behalf of institutionalised children and other humanitarian causes.

"But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there."

Rowling was given her prize by actress Sarah Jessica Parker, a long-time admirer and literacy advocate who praised her for changing the "landscape of children's literature forever and for the better".

The author cited her clashes with censors over her Harry Potter books, which religious groups have accused of inspiring Satanism. She pointed out that her work has appeared on lists of banned books and recalled an unnerving encounter with a Christian fundamentalist in a New York toy shop.

"I had no idea the phrase 'I pray for you' could sound so intimidating," she said.

But Rowling, who has shared sharp opinions about Mr Trump and others on her Twitter feed, also called herself lucky to live in a part of the world where speech is protected and accepted that some would object to her work.

"My critics are at liberty to claim that I am trying to convert children to Satanism," she said. "And I'm free to explain I'm exploring human nature and morality - or to say, 'You're an idiot'."

PEN, a literary and human rights organisation, honoured advocates for speech and prisoners of censorship worldwide, from Egypt to Flint, Michigan. Thanks in part to Rowling's star power, it raised more than 1.75 million dollars (£1.2m), the highest total in memory for its fund-raising ceremony.

The gala also was far calmer than last year's, when an award to the French publication Charlie Hebdo, subjected to a deadly attack in Paris, led to heightened security.

"It's very nice to have an event without metal detectors," PEN president Andrew Solomon said.

Two prominent Flint activists, LeeAnne Walters and Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha, received the PEN/Toni and James C Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award for their efforts in exposing the deadly levels of lead in the water.

Ms Walters, a mother of four, became alarmed when her children fell ill and Dr Hanna-Attisha, a paediatrician and educator, conducted studies of blood lead levels in her children.

Ahmed Naji, imprisoned in Egypt for the sexual content of his novel The Use of Life, was the winner of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. The author's brother, Mohamed, accepted for him and said Naji was working on another novel even though his jailers forbade him to write.

PEN's annual publishing award was given to Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch, whose battles have included censorship in China and a stand-off in the US with over e-book revenues.

Press Association

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