Anti-Islam writer is not guest of honor at meeting

Dündar Hızal from the İstanbul European Capital of Culture Agency, who is the coordinator for the upcoming meeting of the European Writers’ Parliament in İstanbul, has denied reports that controversial writer Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, widely known as V.S. Naipaul, had been invited as a guest of honor at this event.

Reports to this effect had drawn the strong ire of many Turkish authors and poets. Some Turkish writers have already announced their intention to boycott the event, while others have declared that it is an insult to Muslims to invite Naipaul to the European Writers’ Parliament as a guest of honor.

Naipaul is a Trinidadian writer of Indian descent who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001. He caused an outcry in 2001 by comparing the “calamitous effect” of Islam on the world with colonialism. He claimed that Islam had both enslaved and attempted to wipe out other cultures.

On Monday, Hızal stated that Naipaul was not a guest of honor but that that he was, however, one of the 100 writers invited to the event. “The only guest of honor at the event will be [veteran Turkish writer] Yaşar Kemal. Otherwise, there is no other guest of honor. V.S. Naipaul is one of the 100 writers invited to the meeting,” he noted.

Hızal’s remarks, however, contradicted an earlier press statement that indicated Naipaul would be one of the guests of honor at the meeting. Asked whether Naipaul would change his mind about attending the event in the face of mounting criticism in Turkey, Hızal said: “Naipaul is someone who is rather closed to the outer world. He may not be aware of the developments in Turkey, but the agency representing him is fully aware of what is going on. The agency will probably share this [the criticism] with him. I do not think he will change his mind about the invitation.”

Poet and philosopher Hilmi Yavuz found Hızal’s explanation unconvincing and asked why the İstanbul European Capital of Culture Agency had not denied the reports of Naipaul’s role invitation as guest of honor when they first emerged.

Musa İğrek, İstanbul
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