Salman Rushdie: Universities should be a ‘safe space’ for controversial ideas

Salman Rushdie: Universities should be a ‘safe space’ for controversial ideas

Eric W. Dolan

Author Salman Rushdie thinks universities in the United States should stop coddling students.

Rushdie described political correctness on U.S. college campuses as nonsense that needed to be “rejected as firmly as possible” while accepting a Chicago Tribune 2015 Literary Award on Saturday. He noted that some Christian students at Duke University refused to read the book Fun Home by Alison Bechdel because the author was a lesbian.

“I thought, maybe you should just not be at Duke. Step down and make room for people who actually want to learn something — which is what a university is supposed to be about,” Rushdie quipped.

The author and free speech advocate said universities should challenge students to question their worldview.

“The university is the place where young people should be challenged every day, where everything they know should be put into question so that they can think and learn and grow up,” Rushdie said. “That’s what they are there to do. And the idea that they should be protected from ideas that they might not like is the opposite of what a university should be. In a university, it is ideas that should be protected. It is the discussion of ideas that should be given a safe place. The university should be a safe space for the life of the mind. That’s what it is for.”

Security at the Chicago Tribune’s annual awards for literature was increased for Rushdie’s visit. Rushdie faced a fatwa from Iran’s ayatollah over his own controversial words. In 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered Muslims to kill Rushdie over his book The Satanic Verses.

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