Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Controversial writer Rushdie to speak on ‘Culture Wars’ Nov. 7

World-renowned novelist Salman Rushdie will be delivering a lecture entitled “Culture Wars and the Importance of Free Speech” at Whitman next month. Rushdie, an Anglo-Indian novelist and essayist, is scheduled to speak at Cordiner Hall on Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and will be offering a book signing directly following his speech at 8:30 p.m. Controversial writer Rushdie to speak on

Whitman Public Speakers Chair Rachel Stein worked in conjunction with the Intercultural Center on campus to book Rushdie.

“[Rushdie] has a really interesting story to tell. … He offers something different and something of a multicultural nature as well,” said Stein.

“I was excited from the very beginning,” said Mukulu Mweu, director of the Intercultural Center on campus. Mweu heard that Rushdie would be in Yakima in November from a parent during opening week, which is how the process of bringing Rushdie to Whitman started. “I wasn’t sure if it would materialize for us…. He’s hard to get. Trying to get funding to make it happen was difficult,” said Mweu.

“He is definitely a different kind of voice…that is what we are really trying to push with programming this year,” said sophomore Nadim Damluji, who is the ASWC programming chair as well as an intern at the Intercultural Center on campus. “I think Rachel did a really good job of seeing that mission and being able to co-sponsor with the Intercultural Center and having that outlet open for the Intercultural Center to use is really great.”
Rushdie is perhaps most well known for his controversial novel “The Satanic Verses.” The book was banned in India, caused riots in Pakistan and infuriated the former Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued a fatwa: or religious edict: on Rushdie in 1989. Rushdie went underground for nine years until the fatwa officially ended in 1998.

“The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention, nor is it going to take any action whatsoever, to threaten the life of the author of ‘The Satanic Verses’ or anybody associated with his work, nor will it encourage or assist anybody to do so,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to The New York Times in September 1998.

Rushdie still receives notes threatening his life on an annual basis, but, “It has reached a point where it’s a piece of rhetoric rather than a real threat,” said Rushdie to The Hindu in February of this year.

When asked whether the controversial nature of Rushdie’s work might be problematic on campus, Mweu said, “Sometimes controversial issues really bring about a good exchange of ideas.”

Though his first book was “Grimus” (1975) Rushdie gained literary fame after publishing his second novel, “Midnight’s Children,” which won the Booker Prize in 1981. He then went on to claim the Booker of Booker’s award in 1993, distinguishing “Midnight’s Children” as the best book to have won the award in the award’s 25-year existence.

In June, Rushdie was knighted by the queen of England in honor of his services to literature.

“I think this is a real commitment to our initial goal in our programming committee,” said Damluji. The Programming Committee has sought to represent a diversity of perspectives and voices on campus throughout the course of the semester, including the showing of both “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Fahrenhype 9/11” movies and, most recently, the band Girl Talk.

“Girl Talk is not just a typical indie rock band; it is more hip-hop, DJ kind of stuff, which we haven’t really had on campus before. So we are really trying to get a full spectrum of voices on campus this year,” said Damluji.

Students and faculty can purchase Rushdie’s work at the Whitman Bookstore. They will be carrying Rushdie’s “Grimus,” “Shame,” “Midnight’s Children,” “The Moor’s Last Sigh” and “The Satanic Verses.”

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