This week, Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie conferred an honorary degree to one of the greatest living writers, Sir Salman Rushdie.
During McRobbie's presentation of the degree, he praised Rushdie as a "staunch defender of truth."
"For more than four decades, Sir Salman Rushdie has been a teller of truths," McRobbie said. "Through the conferral of an honorary degree upon Sir Salman Rushdie today, we acknowledge and recognize that the extraordinary works for which he is renowned constitute major contributions to world literature, advancements of our culture, and that they shed light on the truth of what it means to be human."
At a dinner honoring Rushdie, McRobbie described what made Rushdie -- the author of 13 novels, including "Midnight's Children" and "The Satanic Verses," an anthology of short stories, four works of non-fiction -- a man who has come to represent independence of thought and expression.
Following the publication of "The Satanic Verses," the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran issued a fatwā calling for Rushdie to be put to death for writing a book deemed blasphemous and insulting toward Muslims. The fatwā sparked violence around the world. A number of people involved with translations or the publication of the book were attacked, injured, or even killed.
"Though he lived under police protection for several years because of the fatwā, he continued writing and publishing," McRobbie said. "He also became one of the most visible and outspoken champions of freedom of thought and expression."
Joined by senior leaders of the university and eminent faculty members at Bryan House, McRobbie extended a very warm welcome to Rushdie.
"With the award of his honorary doctorate this afternoon, we are proud to count him as Indiana University’s newest alumnus," McRobbie said.
Rushdie's visit to the IU Bloomington campus was part of the university's semesterlong "India Remixed: Global Arts and Humanities Festival," the largest Indian and culture festival ever organized in the Midwest.
Read IU President McRobbie's speech