To celebrate the annual “Banned Books Week,” the Simms Memorial library along with Southeastern’s English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, presented a banned books reading on Thursday Sept. 30 in the reception area on the first floor.
Passages were read from books that are banned in different countries, such as the children’s book “Charlottes Web” and the science fiction novel “Fahrenheit 451.” Members of the English honor society presented the passages along with faculty.
One presenter was Southeastern graduate student Ann O’Connor with a reading from the banned book “The Satanic Verses.”
“The Satanic Verses” is a fiction novel written by Iranian author Salman Rushdie that uses twisted themes and parts from the Islamic Koran to tell a story with modern politics and culture.
“I chose Satanic Verses because of my background with Middle Eastern culture and I know how the comments that have been made about Satanic Verses by Arabs and Muslims in particular,” said O’Connor. “It has been received negatively. In Saudi Arabia the book is banned; however, in Iran a fatwa, or religious ruling, was made by a cleric there, the Shiite of Islam, he issued a fatwa saying that Salman Rushdie should be killed for his slanderous writings.”
O’Connor read a segment from the book that references the Islamic holy water Zamzam, and before the reading, gave a brief definition of the water. However O’Connor didn’t mention how Rushdie refers the water to.
“Today I spoke on Zamzam. Unfortunately, I neglected to tell people that Salman Rushdie refers to Zamzam, which is holy water, as urine,” said O’Connor. “So when people in Satanic Verses were washing for prayers, they were washing, in his eyes, in urine.”
One student found that even if the content is offensive to culture, it shouldn’t be banned.
“I think that even if it’s offensive, it should not be banned because it’s their freedom of speech,” said visual arts junior Alexandra Brendt. “I believe that everyone should be considerate of what’s going around them.”
O’Connor was impressed by the student turn out and pleased that students were interested in banned books in other cultures.
“I commend the students and the turn out, which was so great,” said O’Connor. “You can see their interests and knowing different types of books that have been, over time, banned. Having different points of view of banned books from different cultures allows them a perspective of tolerance and understanding without sacrificing their rights of freedom of speech.”