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‘Break chains wherever you find them’: Salman Rushdie on the importance of freedom

“If you look around the world, you see the ideas of freedom — freedom which contains the sense of carefree-ness — seem everywhere in retreat, hounded by guns and bombs,” Rushdie said.

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Salman Rushdie, known for being vocal about the need for freedom had stressed on the theme when he spoke at Emory University in 2015. “If you look around the world, you see the ideas of freedom — freedom which contains the sense of carefree-ness — seem everywhere in retreat, hounded by guns and bombs,” he remarked. “Cartoonists lie dead in Paris.”

“But here in America, threats upon free expression are beginning to be the greatest where they should be most defended, that is to say within the walls of the academy. And the people most willing to sacrifice, or limit, this fundamental right are young people,” he added. He then went on to reiterate that the natural impulse of all people is to be free and the right to be free emerges from the this very impulse.

Sharing the video, the University shared that in his description to this lecture, he had stated, “Human beings possess a natural ‘instinct’ for freedom. We prefer liberty to ‘unfreedom’ and that instinct is related to self-consciousness — to knowledge of ourselves as autonomous beings in the world. Out of this ‘liberty instinct’ comes the idea of human rights. These rights involve neither liberal nor Western fictions but rather connect to our deepest needs as human beings.”

Published in 1988, Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses was banned by Pakistan in the same year. Partly inspired by Muhammad’s life, the book was criticised for being blasphemous and a fatwa was issued in his name by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the following year.

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First published on: 28-04-2020 at 07:45 IST
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