The Attack on Salman Rushdie
Date: August 13, 2022
TO: The NYU Community
FROM: President Andrew Hamilton
By now, many of you will have heard of the savage assault on Salman Rushdie — Booker Prize-winning author, Distinguished Writer in Residence at NYU’s Carter Journalism Institute, and a member of our community since 2015 — as he was preparing to speak yesterday at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. The assailant was rapidly apprehended, but not before Salman Rushdie was badly injured. He was transported by helicopter to a medical center in Pennsylvania.
We do not yet know the motive for the attack. We do know that the Chautauqua Institution is widely known as a place of ideas and artistic creativity, and that is what brought him there. It is hard not to believe that he was attacked for his writings and his ideas, and it is certainly a bitter irony that the talk he was about to deliver was evidently to be on the topic of the U.S. as a sanctuary for persecuted writers, artists, and thinkers from around the world — in other words, a safe haven for ideas.
In the way he has conducted himself, Salman Rushdie admirably and courageously exemplifies our University’s core intellectual tenet — freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas. Notwithstanding the threats against him, he has continued to write and to speak publicly; this is part of the reason he is so widely respected. And that’s what makes yesterday’s incident so much more egregious than the shocking act of violence at its core — it was an attack on ideas, on institutions that cherish ideas, on intellectual exchange. It strikes right at the heart of the values we hold so dear.
We should strive to emulate his courage in our own lives, and resolve to defend freedom of expression and the life of ideas just as unflinchingly.
But for right now, we have a member of our community, a colleague, grievously injured. I would ask that you join me in keeping Salman Rushdie, and his family, loved ones, and friends, in your thoughts; in hoping for his full recovery to health; and in denouncing this appalling assault and rejecting violence.