British-Indian novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie issued a statement in support of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine whose Paris offices were attacked by gunmen on Wednesday morning, resulting in the deaths of 12 people. According to the Associated Press, the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar” as they stormed the office.
In the last decade, Charlie Hebdo has on multiple occasions published what some consider blasphemous cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
Rushdie has been targeted for his depiction of Muhammad in his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses. In 1989, Iran’s Ayatollah issued a fatwa against the writer—a call for his death—and an assassination attempt was made against Rushdie in London.
His statement, published by The Wall Street Journal, reads:
Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.