For Shame (and for Grimus, too)

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You'd think Nova Southeastern University in Florida would be celebrating its coup, getting Salman Rushdie to give their commencement address. And then you realize—hey, don't they have a crazy, culturally oversensitive International Muslim Association? Yes, they do.

Graduating senior Farheen Parvez said she and her family would boycott the graduation ceremony, scheduled for May 7 at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise.

"I was looking forward to my graduation, of course," said Parvez, a student leader and officer in the International Muslim Association at NSU. "Then when I found out that Salman Rushdie would be the speaker, I was appalled."

The complaints against Rushdie didn't seem to be going anywhere, but an ominous letter criticizing Rushdie inspired a Wednesday meeting between the school's dean and the complaining students.

Shikha Dalmia interviewed Rushdie for Reason in 2005.

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  1. So, attending (let alone being a student officer) a heathen US university that educates women, embraces modernity, and teaches western history’s version of the crusades is okay, but a Rushdie speech isn’t?

  2. Good for Nova–getting Rushdie shows some cojones lacking elsewhere in this country, and it’s a clear statement in support of freedom of speech. . .and just plain freedom. I’m appalled that a law student would not understand why we would support someone like Rushie. Did she boycott the First Amendment discussion in Con. Law, too?

  3. When Rushdie gave the commencement address at my alma mater in 1996, he made a reference to another commencement in which friends of his boycotted because the speaker the heretical and offensive Jeanne Kilpatrick. http://www.richmondreview.co.uk/library/rushdi01.html

    He also referred to the only commencement speaker that no one could boycott: Kermit the Frog. I wonder if he’s booked?

  4. “A small group of concerned undergraduate students” is an insurrection? Only one student promising to boycott the ceremony? Um, where’s the story here again? If the fatwa was still in effect it might be interesting, but…

  5. Ed, did I miss something? I thought they reaffirmed the fatwa against Rushdie in 2005.

  6. From the link:

    “Those who have read the letter told Local 10 that the tone of the letter is calm and educational. But some employees said that they feel less safe because of having received the letter.

    The two-page, single-spaced letter outlines concerns about Rushdie’s writings and beliefs and categorizes him as an affront to Islam.”

    A calm, education letter outlining why a proposed speaker is offensive to a segment of the student body makes people feel “less safe.” Does anyone think this would happen if the Christian Student Association, GLBT Student Association, or Left Handed Student Association wrote to object to the choice of a commencement speaker?

    Pro Libertate, you’ll let us know how it violates the First Amendment for some members of a group to object to a proposed speaker, and choose not to attend the speech, right?

  7. “Did she boycott the First Amendment discussion in Con. Law, too? ”

    Probably not – but did you? If you and the University have a right to support him, does that not also imply she has a right to criticize and not support him? Isn’t the first amendment specifically applicable to government action?

    “”If he was here for any other event, that would have been fine, because that’s optional,” said Parvez, a biology major. “But having him at graduation, it’s not appropriate because that’s for the families and for the students.””

    From my read, this was more of a “culture” story than it was a “legal” story. So I’m not sure what the 1st Amendment has to do with it. Nothing I read in the article had anything to do with the government banning speech, or anyone asking the government to do so.

    And just so it’s clear, one could be critical of Rushdie without supporting the fatwa. I’ve never read his stuff, so I’ve no opinion one way or the other, but anyone with his (Rushdie’s) commitment I respect. But that doesn’t mean others are evil for not liking what he says or does.

  8. Ed,

    The fatwa remains in effect.

    _________________________

    As to the letter, it would be nice if we could read it instead of reading second-hand accounts of its content.

  9. Lord, people, my point was about respecting the freedom of speech and what it means, not about saying that it is violating someone’s speech rights to object to Rushdie’s presence. Nova is a private school, and the objector is a private actor. I never said anything whatsoever about someone’s free speech rights being denied. In fact, I didn’t even come close to saying that.

    Boycott away!

  10. Does anyone think this would happen if the Christian Student Association, GLBT Student Association, or Left Handed Student Association wrote to object to the choice of a commencement speaker?

    If the last Pope had said that anyone who kills the commencement speaker would get a heavenly reward, and then someone from the Catholic Student Union typed a two-page single-spaced letter explaining why the speaker was an affront to Catholicism, yes, I see how that could make some people nervous.

  11. having worked at NSU and understanding the administrative culture there, i am actually really impressed that they went with this choice (and more perplexed that Rushdie would agree to speak there)…this is very progressive for this place!

    the student “outrage” is somewhat laughable given that this is more of a commuter school than a traditional campus-oriented institution. more laughable is the idea that these few students might think the administration will care about their absence from the graduation…NSU already got their money!

  12. “Does anyone think this would happen if the Christian Student Association, GLBT Student Association, or Left Handed Student Association wrote to object to the choice of a commencement speake”

    no.

    but also to be fair, none of the above have been blowing people the fuck up lately.

  13. I heard that the fatwa was re-instated because he used too many words in his sentances.

    Have you tried Midnight’s Children? It’s like reading the dictionary with less plot.

  14. Nova is in for a real treat, Rushdie is a great speaker. We had him for a run of the mill lecture; I can only imagine what he will do with commencement.

  15. joe,

    If the President of Planned Parenthood was the speaker, and a pro-life student group wrote a freakin post-it note in protest, I’d bet that some faculty would complain about “feeling less safe”, and get those dangerous students banned from the graduation ceremony.

    In this case, they’re handcuffed by the fact that Islam is still (barely) protected by Respect For Diversity, whereas the fevered imaginings of “anti-choicers” never merit such respect.

  16. Out of fairness, the university should extend an invite to Osama bin Laden to speak as well.

  17. NoStar

    Good point. But none of this pussy televised appearance thing like Roman Polanski. Tell him he can do it, but Osama’s got to have the sack to come appear in person.

    I tried to read The Satanic Verses as a free speech exercise, but then gave up and issued a fatwa that it was boring.

  18. From the article: Khomeini later died and the Iranian government effectively withdrew the fatwa in 1998.

    Bad reporting? Who has the final say-so in fatwa matters?

  19. There’s a wiki entry on Rushdie that provides some details on the status of the fatwa. See usual disclaimer about Wiki accuracy, of course.

  20. Actually, if the Wiki entry information on the fatwa is right–and it appears detailed enough that I imagine that it is–the newspaper made an egregious mistake saying that the fatwa is no more. Hope Rushdie didn’t read that article. . . .

  21. I don’t care about Rushdie one way or the other. But I just might boycott the ceremony on don’t-stand-close-to-targets grounds. Particularly since schools tend to be prime victim disarmament venues.

  22. I’m issuing a fatwa that Wikipedia is not to be questioned.

    Larry, aren’t you supposed to be studying?

  23. Larry, aren’t you supposed to be studying?

    You’re thinking of Frank A. 🙂

  24. You’re right. My appologies.

    Carry on.

  25. Jennifer, I guess you and I see different things when we look at practicing Muslims attending college in the United States. You pay pretty good lip service to the idea that believing the religion is not the same as being a terrorist, but now we have a big test: a religious Muslim has written something that you and object to as dogmatic, pre-modern, and illiberal. So do we maintain the important intellectual distinction between Muslim believer and potential terrorist, or not?

    crimethink,

    There have been more acts of terrorism committed by American anti-abortion activists than by American Muslims and foreign Muslims attending American colleges, combined. But I still think it would be stupid to feel unsafe when, as happens dozens of times a year, an anti-abortion group objects to a pro-choice commencement speaker in writing.

  26. You pay pretty good lip service to the idea that believing the religion is not the same as being a terrorist, but now we have a big test: a religious Muslim has written something that you and object to as dogmatic, pre-modern, and illiberal. So do we maintain the important intellectual distinction between Muslim believer and potential terrorist, or not?

    No, I am simply pointing out that Rushdie already has a death sentence on his head for being “an affront to Islam,” so anybody who complains about his being “an affront to Islam” is likely to get viewed more closely than she otherwise would.

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