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Free speech

I was raised to hate Salman Rushdie

Protestors in Derby calling for the death of the author, 1989. Mirrorpix/Getty

In 1989, I wanted to burn Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, says Ayaan Hirsi Ali in The Washington Post. As a teenager in Kenya, and a devout Muslim with the “righteous convictions of the young”, I thought the Ayatollah’s fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death was standing up for Islam – and for me. I couldn’t afford to buy a copy to set ablaze, so instead my friends and I scribbled the book’s title on a scrap of cardboard and watched it burn. “If Rushdie had been murdered then, I would have been happy.”

But the recent attack on him left me “shattered”. I escaped the “oppressive, dangerous” version of Islam I endured as a child only after fleeing a forced marriage and seeking asylum in the Netherlands. I studied politics, became an MP, and came to “cherish the freedoms” the West offers. The attempt on Rushdie’s life wasn’t just an assault on the “inventive language” of one man; it attacked “the lifeblood of Western civilisation”. Such an assault demands we double down on our commitment to free expression, and not bow to the “secular cult of wokeism”, which opposes anything that could vaguely offend any minority. “It’s time to act in defence of our ideals.” We must be “unafraid and unapologetic” in championing free speech, regardless of hurt feelings or supposed blasphemy. “We cannot let fear cow us into silence.”