well at last someone was on my side for discussing Salman Rushdie, the NAFSAn is Jeff and here is what he says
‘I wish to thank Suad Alhalwachi for raising this issue, and lend my voice to hers in objecting to the selection of Salman Rushdie as NAFSA’s plenary speaker. Clearly, there are divergent opinions on the choice of Mr. Rushdie as a plenary speaker. Most of the comments so far indicate that anyone, no matter how offensive, would be a good choice for NAFSA plenary speaker– some even seem to suggest the more offensive, the better!
There are countless individuals whose scholarship and public lives have greatly influenced our work. To me, it seems that a choice was made to overlook these in favor of a novelist whose celebrity is less the result of his literary achievements than from the notoriety arising from the fatwah against him. Indeed, I suspect that if the fatwah had never been issued, many of us would have been far more sensitive to the feelings of many Muslims who were deeply offended by his portrayal of their faith. I would not go so far as to suggest that NAFSA was censoring alternative speakers by choosing Mr. Rushdie, and I think that it is misguided to suggest that questioning Mr. Rushdie’s selection as a NAFSA plenary speaker amounts to advocating censorship.
Let me be clear that I fully support the rights of anyone to criticize, parody, and even to offend. This is an essential part of a free society. Therefore I do not object to Mr. Rushdie, or his right to speak; what I object to is the choice of him as a speaker at NAFSA. If NAFSA were hosting a conference about academic or literary freedoms, such a choice might be appropriate. NAFSA, however, is an organization dedicated to international education, which necessarily entails striving toward understanding of others’ points of view. An essential element of intercultural competence is cultural empathy yet we, as an association, made a choice to offend many of our own members and colleagues overseas, and did so without very compelling reasons. While I would concede that there may be cases in which an individual’s contributions to international education are so compelling as to override concerns about offensiveness, clearly this is not such a case. David Paulson writes that he is “appalled that any modern educator would object to hearing Mr. Rushdie deliver a public speech,” but this misses the point. I do not object to hearing Mr. Rushdie give a public speech; I object to NAFSA choosing a speaker whose work has been so divisive, instead of choosing someone whose work unites us as international educators.
I’ve been a NAFSAn for more than a quarter of a century now. Often, when our members criticize the association, we do it in 3rd person (“NAFSA should” or “they shouldn’t” when in reality, NAFSA is “We”. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to selection of plenary speakers, it seems that the members do not have a voice. When I privately questioned some members of the NAFSA leadership about the choice of Mr. Rushdie, I was surprised to hear that no members—not the conference planning committee, not the Knowledge Community leaders, not even the board— are involved in these choices. I hope that this year’s choice of plenary speaker will prompt a review of the selection procedure, and that in future years, the pros and cons of such choices can be discussed in advance rather than after the fact.
justice always prevail.