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Scholars, writers condemn violent attack on Salman Rushdie, defend intellectual freedom
Salman Rushdie

‘Words are not violence. Violence is violence.’

As writer Salman Rushdie recovers from a violent attack Friday in Chautauqua, New York, prominent academics and writers have condemned the assault and defended intellectual freedom.

“Free speech is always under attack,” Robert Boynton, director of the literary reportage concentration at NYU’s journalism school, told The College Fix via email. Boynton’s office is “parked next to [Rushdie’s]” at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, he told The Fix.

“When someone attacks someone like Salman, he attacks all creative people,” Boynton wrote.

Rushdie (pictured) was stabbed approximately 10 times Friday morning as he prepared to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York, the New York Times reported Saturday.

Hadi Matar, who had traveled to Chautauqua from New Jersey, was arrested and arraigned on charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon.

“Prosecutors said that the attack on the author was premeditated and targeted,” the Times reported.

Rushdie’s attacker damaged the author’s liver and severed nerves in an arm and in one eye, which he will likely lose, The Associated Press reported Saturday. However, Rushdie’s agent confirmed he had been removed from a ventilator and is talking, AP reported.

Matar “had been in direct contact with members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on social media,” according to intelligence officials in Europe and the Middle East, Vice News reported Sunday.

Professors defended the author, whose controversial works have infuriated extremists for decades

Thomas Chatterton Williams, a writer recently hired by Bard College as visiting professor of the humanities, tweeted “maximum solidarity with Salman Rushdie.”

“Words are not violence. Violence is violence. That distinction must never be downplayed or forgotten, even on behalf of a group we deem oppressed,” Williams stated.

“The attack on Salman Rushdie as he spoke at the Chautauqua Institution was an outrage,” Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, wrote on Twitter.

“I don’t know Mr. Rushdie, but a friend of his who is also a dear friend of mine has requested prayers for him. I hope all who pray will join the effort. All should stand in solidarity with him,” George stated.

Rushdie has received death threats and lived under heavy security for decades. His 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” drew ire from some Muslims “who regarded elements of the novel as blasphemy,” AP reported.

The Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, an edict calling for his death, in 1989.

Mark Bauerlein, emeritus professor at Emory University, told The College Fix via email Friday that some on the left have had trouble accepting that Muslim extremists could want to harm a writer.

Recalling the controversy over the “The Satanic Verses,” Bauerlein wrote that “it caused the multiculturalists a real problem … they couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that the Other was so illiberal.”

Philosopher and writer Sam Harris denounced both religious extremism and complacency among secular authors and academics as contributors to the attack.

“The threat [Rushdie] has lived under for so long–which was so horrifically realized today–was the product, not merely of the hatred and zeal of religious fanatics, but of the cowardice and confusion of secularists,” Harris tweeted.

“Everyone in arts and letters should have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Salman in 1989, thereby distributing the risk. And the fact that so few did is a moral scandal that still casts its shadow over the present,” the author continued.


MORE: Oberlin College ‘peace’ professor endorsed fatwa against Salman Rushdie

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About the Author
Martin Friedenthal -- University of Texas at Dallas