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Rushdie's Death Threat Is Real

It is amazing to me that there are still people who do not understand the seriousness of the threat against Salman Rushdie's life. Vipul Bhushan ["Rushdie Lecture Should Have Been Publicized," Nov. 30] admits that Rushdie "does have exceptional worries about his safety," but then attributes those worries solely to "religious zealots." While these people certainly pose a threat to Rushdie, Bhushan has neglected to mention another, at least as significant danger. There is a $2 million bounty on Rushdie's head. This widens the field from the "zealots" to include professional assassins and amateur bounty hunters. And I would contend, despite Bhushan's assurances, that it would be very nearly impossible to secure any room against professional assassins who knew where their target was.

MIT's actions in this case were not "underhanded" or "elitist." They were the measures necessary to ensure the safety of an honored guest. Rushdie could not, and would not, have come if the event had been publicized. As it was, 20 officers were needed to ensure his safety. And the official who wouldn't tell Bhushan who was visiting was serving the same purpose as those detaining the audience: making sure Rushdie left MIT safely.

No one in the MIT community was excluded from the lecture. It was open to all of us. It was, as advertised, a lecture to honor a great author. Hiding who that author was to be was not at all contrary to the "Institute's mission of promoting the free exchange of ideas." No one, inside MIT or out, would have the benefit of hearing Rushdie's ideas if these kinds of precautions were not taken. As it is, he is risking his life each time he makes a surprise appearance.

Catherine Preston '95