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This report is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

Letter from Canada:on standing up and being counted Roger Burford Mason

It is the fourth anniversary, as I write, of the fatwa imposed on Salman Rushdie by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and he cannot have been comforted to read that, despite increasing international pressure on Iran, Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has decreed that the fatwa must be carried out.

Rushdie is not alone in wishing that wiser and more compassionate heads might prevail. Since last December, Canada has taken a direct and active role in attempting to end Rushdie's isolation.

It was December 7 that Rushdie, to the astonishment of Toronto literary society, appeared on-stage at a city theatre during the annual fundraiser organized by PEN Canada.

After a shocked moment of silence, the packed crowd, which had been titillated well in advance with the promise of a very special surprise, erupted into prolonged, almost hysterical applause, through which many were in tears.

Rushdie spoke gracefully, and with some humor, about his predicament, and was greeted and congratulated by Ontario premier, Bob Rae, who became the first head of government publicly to identify himself with Rushdie and his plight.

In an interview with Val Ross of the Globe and Mail in Toronto in February, Rushdie claimed that Rae's gesture led directly to a similar one by Mary Robinson, the President of Ireland, to support from the German government, and to the British government's belated adoption of his cause, when Foreign Minister Douglas Hogg met with Rushdie in February. ...


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