The PEN award to the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre has drawn some very distinguished fire.
On April 26, 2015, six PEN “table hosts,” all highly regarded writers, publicly protested PEN’s decision to give an award for “Freedom of Expression Courage” to these courageous survivors. This award, to be given on May 3rd, is separate from the literary prizes.
By April 30th, the six (Peter Carey, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, and Taiye Selasi) were joined by one hundred and thirty nine authors who signed a petition of protest. In all, this represents only 4% of their membership.
Salman Rushdie, a writer who knows what it is to pay the price for having criticized Islam and is also a former President of PEN had this to say: They are “six authors in search of character.” He is right. They do not know how to stand up to the false charge of “Islamophobia.”
Thus, one hundred and forty five authors have decided to shame PEN—publicly, and at the last minute—in order to make an “anti-Islamophobic” political statement which renders every critic of Islamic gender and religious apartheid, and every critic of Islamic terrorism, that much more vulnerable.
One of the six protesting table hosts, novelist Francine Prose, has written in The Guardian:
The ‘narrative’ of the Charlie Hebdo murders—white Europeans killed in their offices by Muslim extremists—is one that feeds neatly into the cultural prejudices that have allowed our government to make so many disastrous mistakes in the Middle East. The First Amendment guarantees the right of the Neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois but we don’t give them an award.
But she is wrong about Charlie Hebdo’s alleged “Islamophobia.” According to two French sociologists, a review of “523 covers of Hebdo over 10 years…found that 485 dealt with politics, economics and so forth. A total of 38 involved religion; of those, Christianity was the exclusive subject of 21, and Islam of seven”…