Writers including Joyce Carol Oates and Junot Diaz are among two dozen who have signed a letter protesting against PEN America giving an award to French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Six authors – Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Rachel Kushner, Taiye Selasi, Francine Prose and Teju Cole – have already pulled out of the PEN American Center Gala in New York on 5th May, where Charlie Hebdo is due to receive a Freedom of Expression Courage Award.
Now a group of writers have written a letter criticising the decision to give an award to the magazine.
The Guardian reported that the signatories to the letter accuse the magazine of mocking a “section of the French population that is already marginalised, embattled, and victimised”.
The letter condemns the murder of 12 members of staff at Charlie Hebdo earlier this year, but says: “There is a critical difference between staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression.”
It continues: “The magazine seems to be entirely sincere in its anarchic expressions of disdain toward organised religion. But in an unequal society, equal opportunity offense does not have an equal effect.
“Power and prestige are elements that must be recognised in considering almost any form of discourse, including satire.”
In an earlier letter sent to PEN trustees, PEN president Andrew Solomon said: "It is undoubtedly true that in addition to provoking violent threats from extremists, the Hebdo cartoons offended some other Muslims, as their cartoons offended members of the many other groups they targeted… But, based on their own statements, we believe that Charlie Hebdo's intent was not to ostracise or insult Muslims, but rather to reject forcefully the efforts of a small minority to place broad categories of speech off limits, no matter the purpose, intent or import of the expression.”
He added: "We do not believe that any of us must endorse the contents of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons in order to affirm the principles for which they stand, or applaud the staff's bravery in holding fast to those values in the face of life and death threats."
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