“Salman Rushdie is not a thought, a book or an idea, he is a man”

It is not known what a murderer thinks when he rushes to a scene to stab a man unknown to him. Most likely he is not thinking. By killing its author, he believes he is suppressing the immaterial effects of a work. Perhaps it is not blood that he sees flowing from his victim’s throat, but ink. He imagines cutting the throat of a thought, gutting a book, suppressing ideas. He is convinced of it to the point of pleading ” not guilty “ of attempted murder.

However, Salman Rushdie is not a thought, a book or an idea. It’s a man. The attack he suffered, an attempted murder. The assailant used a knife to delete a writer. If the crime of which he accuses Salman Rushdie only exists in the imagination of the self-proclaimed defenders of Islam, the attempted murder has nothing symbolic about it. This is why I am surprised by the formulas repeated at will, according to which by attacking Salman Rushdie, the assailant was striking at freedom of expression, in him embodied.

No one killed “Charlie”

Don’t such assertions corroborate the assailant’s convictions? In seeking to denounce a crime, do these formulas not repeat, but on behalf of the opposing camp, ours, the barbaric logic which claims to kill ideas by attacking those who express them? “We killed Charlie Hebdo », also shouted a masked man, gun in hand, convinced that he had settled his score in the free exercise of satire. If Cabu, Elsa Cayat, Wolinski and so many others are no more, Charlie Hebdo, the newspaper, is still on newsstands. no one killed charlie.

Salman Rushdie, on the way to recovery, still suffers from his physical injuries. He has suffered for thirty-three years now from a radical diversion from his literary destiny, from the erasure of almost all memories that the recognition of his talent as a writer owed nothing to the fatwa of a fanatical ayatollah.

A recognized novelist

Here is an author who, in 1981, for his novel midnight children, received the Booker Prize, one of the most important literary prizes for Anglo-Saxon literature and the legendary James Tait Black Memorial Prize, a prize which has been awarded, since its creation in 1919, to DH Lawrence, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh , Aldous Huxley, Lawrence Durrell, Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer… When Rushdie received these distinctions, he was 34 years old and had his life ahead of him to fulfill the promises of a novelist already recognized as one of the most notable of his time.

Doesn’t imagining that freedom of expression have been affected in the person of Salman Rushdie reinforce the convictions of our enemies instead of fighting them, giving them serious reason to rejoice and start over?

Freedom didn’t bleed

No, freedom of expression has not been affected, neither in the neck nor in the stomach. Freedom did not bleed, she was not taken to the hospital for treatment. She won’t suffer the aftermath of a despicable assault perpetrated by some poor guy.

Reading the declarations of solidarity that came out after the attack on Salman Rushdie, it was not clear that it was an attack on his person. You would think, especially nowadays, that some fool had unbolted a bust of the writer, or burned his effigy, or that Rushdie had been asked to resign from a committee for making an inappropriate statement, or even that his works had been removed from a school curriculum. Isn’t the freedom to write, to say and to think otherwise attacked every day by the little orthodox tyrants that we have become? But only fanatics harbor the silly and cruel hope of attaining freedom itself by killing a person who exercises it. It is doing them too great a service to think like them.


Ayyam Sureau is a philosopher. After many years in the division of philosophy at Unesco, she founded the Association Pierre-Claver. The latter has been working since 2008 to improve the integration of statutory refugees into French society. From August 29, she will write a weekly column in the “À Vif” pages of The cross Monday.

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“Salman Rushdie is not a thought, a book or an idea, he is a man”