FSU Writers’ Advisory Council writes to Royal Society of Literature over its failure to publicly support Sir Salman Rushdie

The Writers’ Advisory Council of the FSU has written to the Council of the Royal Society of Literature to express its concerns at the Society’s failure to issue any statement concerning the mobbing and cancellation of Kate Clanchy, and its failure to properly condemn the violent attack on Sir Salman Rushdie by an Islamist terrorist.

The Writers’ Advisory Council of the FSU has written to the Council of the Royal Society of Literature to express its concerns at the Society’s failure to issue any statement concerning the mobbing and cancellation of Kate Clanchy, and its failure to properly condemn the violent attack on Sir Salman Rushdie by an Islamist terrorist.

You can read the letter on our website here.

Signed by Writers’ Advisory Council members including Julie Bindel, Jack Dee, Helen Joyce, Lord Andrew Roberts and Lionel Shriver, the letter responds directly to current Society president Bernadine Evaristo’s recent defence of the charity’s inaction following the life-changing attack on Sir Salman. Writing for the Guardian, the Booker prize-winning author said it was important for the organisation not to “take sides” in what she described as “writers’ controversies and issues”.

In their letter, the signatories note that, far from being impartial, the Society’s failure to properly condemn a violent attack on one of its members is in fact “a tacit acknowledgement that it believes there are some circumstances in which trying to murder an author whose work you disapprove of is acceptable”, before then urging Evaristo to issue “a strong condemnation of this disgraceful assault on freedom of expression”.

There is a grim irony to this letter, in that our Writers’ Advisory Council was first established by authors who left the Society of Authors after it repeatedly showed itself unwilling to defend Kate Clanchy, who was at the time one of its members. 

Since the FSU launched in February 2020, a growing number of authors have come to us for advice and support, and it has become increasingly clear to us that freedom of expression is under severe pressure within the literary world, with publishers, literary agents, professional associations and unions often failing to defend their authors when their speech rights come under attack.

Needless to say, that’s not our style. At the FSU, we stand up for the free speech rights of our members – all of our members.

Commenting on the Royal Society’s refusal to take public stands against attacks on Kate Clanchy and Sir Salman, Toby Young said: “The FSU believes in open borders between different organisations campaigning for freedom of expression, so we would welcome any refugees from the RSL. I can promise that we’d be more robust if one of our members was attacked by an Islamic fundamentalist who disapproved of something they’d written.”