Rushdie warns of new dangers to free speech in West

13 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Frankfurt book fair opens in controversy as Rushdie sparks Iran boycott.

The Iranian government said the fair had “under the pretext of freedom of expression, invited a person who is hated in the Islamic world and created the opportunity for Salman Rushdie … to make a speech”, AFP reports.

October 7, 2015 – British author Salman Rushdie at a news conference on his latest book “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” at the Niemeyer Center in Aviles, northern Spain. The Islamic republic reportedly called on other Muslim nations to join its boycott saying it “strongly protests” Rushdie’s appearance at the fair, which is one of the largest in the world. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder, issued the fatwa after he and others in the Muslim world said Rushdie had blasphemously depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammed. “The Frankfurt Book Fair is a place of dialogue.

The show promises to be controversial even before its doors open, with a press conference on Tuesday to be headlined by Rushdie, who has a death warrant on his head over his 1989 book ‘The Satanic Verses’. Fair director Juergen Boos said Monday that he regrets the cancellation by Iran’s culture ministry and hopes this year’s absence of an Iranian national stand will only be “a short interruption.” But he added that free speech “is not negotiable.”

About 70 writers from the Southeast Asian nation will attend, including author Laksmi Pamuntjak who will present her latest book ‘The Question of Red’, a love story set at in the 1960s, a period of violent repression against communists. Themes of barriers, borders and the fight against extremism will dominate during three days of discussions with 20 writers from around the world, led by Danish author Janne Teller. Held for the second consecutive year, the discussions, titled ‘Frankfurt Undercover’, are aimed at generating ideas aimed mainly at influencing political opinion. The Frankfurt fair dates as far back as the Middle Ages with the invention of the Gutenberg press just down the road, and this year some 7,300 exhibitors will be present, with up to 300,000 visitors expected. As in every edition, internationally renowned writers will be out in Frankfurt to promote their latest works, including Ken Follett, who is set to speak about the video game adaptation of his runaway success ‘Pillars of the Earth’.

The show will be an occasion for the struggling book publishing industry – with an estimated total value of 114 billion euros (DH473 billion) worldwide – to look for new ideas as younger generations turn their eyes increasingly online. Representatives of online retailer Amazon will likely be closely watched when they participate in round-table discussions at the show, which opens on October 14 and runs until October 18. Meanwhile, Germany, which is receiving a record number of refugees this year, will ensure that the newcomers are not left out from the major cultural event, by giving them free tickets to the fair and organising visits. The question of access to culture in the refugee camps will be discussed at a conference during the fair, while the German writers’ federation is expected to launch an appeal for solidarity for those who have fled their countries.

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