[Francine] Prose told the Associated Press that while she was in favour of “freedom of speech without limitations” and “deplored” the shootings at Charlie Hebdo, the award signified “admiration and respect” for its work and “I couldn’t imagine being in the audience when they have a standing ovation for Charlie Hebdo”.
She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Andrew Solomon, president of PEN, told the Guardian that aside from brief exchanges with Carey and writer Deborah Eisenberg, no one had indicated they would not attend the gala over the award before the six letters.
Solomon said that PEN distinguished between the right of free speech and much of what Charlie Hebdo actually published. “The award does not agree with the content of what they expressed,” he said, “it expressed admiration for that commitment of free speech.”
He compared the controversy to PEN’s inclusion of Pussy Riot at last year’s gala, saying that the Russian activists’ “content is in many instances juvenile, and many people had felt that remove large parts of your clothing in an Orthodox church was offensive, but in standing up to the Putin regime they did something worth admiration.”
That’s a much better (fairer) comparison than neo-Nazis. It’s understandable to be lukewarm about Charlie’s style, and that of Pussy Riot too; it’s not understandable to claim they’re comparable to any kind of Nazis.
Solomon also provided several letters of support to PEN’s decision, including from Rushdie.
“It is quite right that PEN should honour [Charlie Hebdo’s] sacrifice and condemn their murder without these disgusting ‘buts,’ Rushdie wrote.
“This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non Muslims, into a cowed silence.
“These six writers have made themselves the fellow travellers of that project. Now they will have the dubious satisfaction of watching PEN tear itself apart in public.”
Exactly. The Soft-headed Six seem to have no clue that there is any space between Muslims and Islamists. That’s a very basic mistake.