So, don't go
Controversy at Commencement: Who Needs It?
Categories: Free Speech
Faculty members and administrators at Nova Southeastern University, in Davie, Fla., got more than they bargained for when they invited author Salman Rushdie to give this year’s commencement speech at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences on May 7. They got controversy. Some student members of the International Muslim Association are protesting the invitation, presumably because they agree with those who regard Mr. Rushdie’s 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” as a blasphemy against Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. (It’s the Danish cartoons all over again, only this time with an additional twist provided by the literary quality of the offending document.)
Graduating senior Farheen Parvez is planning not to attend. “I was looking forward to my graduation,” she told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, but “when I found out that Salman Rushdie would be the speaker, I was appalled.”
Apparently taken aback by the protest, university officials have defended themselves by denying any malign intention. Dean Don Rosenblum told the Sun-Sentinel that choosing Mr. Rushdie was not meant to insult anyone. Mr. Rosenblum also pointed out that the faculty chose Mr. Rushdie as a fitting climax to the university’s yearlong study of good and evil. It seems neither Mr. Rosenblum nor anyone else saw the tension between these two defenses: if good and evil is the theme, Mr. Rushdie must represent the former (you’re not going to invite evil to be your speaker) and those who condemned him (and issued a fatwa against him) the latter. And if, as the protest indicates, there are graduating seniors who would align themselves with the Ayatollah Khomeini (who issued the fatwa) and against Mr. Rushdie, they are sure to be insulted.
It doesn’t help to declare, as Mr. Rosenblum did, that Mr. Rushdie is “an outspoken advocate of freedom of expression, which is a critical core value of the university.” To invoke freedom of expression as a core value is to elevate it above any and all of the sentiments that might be expressed; expression itself, rather than its content, becomes the cornerstone of your theology. But it is not, one would think, the cornerstone of the Muslim students’ theology. What they are likely to hear when the mantra of free speech is preached at them is another statement by the university they attend that their beliefs—especially those that would lead to labeling some expressions blasphemous—are wrong.
This isn't the same as the Danish cartoons for a couple of reasons. The first was that Rushie's "crime" was offending the Iranians, who had no possible justification to punish the British subject.
The cartoons was a direct insult from Danes to other Danes of another religion. It was designed to denigrate them. Most American papers treated them a culturally offensive and wouldn't run them, as they wouldn't for any other religion
Rushdie was not denigrating Islam. Also, no one sent hit teams to kill the cartoonists, most people simply protested, some rioted and died. Rushie's life was in real, verifiable danger and most importantly, state sanctioned. That is a world of difference than some ginned up mobs. The Iranian state wanted him dead, a person they had no control or contact over. It's called terrorism.
To think in 2006, people could be offended by him speaking is sad. But so what. Don't fucking go.
It's one thing to be insulted by people meaning to insult you. It's another thing entirely to stand cheek and jowl with a repressive goverment calling for assassination.
Gilly, you have it wrong. The SAME sorts of people with the SAME interests and SAME insane sense of intolerance called for (and where necessary fabricated the materials) for both the Danish riots and the fatwah against Rushdie.
You can't pander to extremists, period.
And you know what? Libraries are full of books that insult various precepts of pretty much every religion.
I'll say it again: If your religion preaches the destruction of nonbelievers and nontheocratic systems of government, please stay the fuck out of Western civilization. Strawmen to the contrary be damned.
When someone with something to say--Muslim or not--can dare to criticize some aspect of Islam or heaven forfend tell a joke without some mullah somewhere sparking cross-nation state-sponsored riots, fatwahs, boycotts, protests, etc--and the world stoping to watch the collective temper tantrum--then it will be the first baby-step in the right direction.
When those university students protest Rushdie speaking, they're saying "I'm just here for show; I have no intention of thinking for myself--AND I think that I have a divine right to do the non-thinking for others also."
Except the Danes were chortling about their insults to Islam until people got pissed. Thewere gleeful at bringing Muslims to "heel," and the insult was felt widely among ALL Muslims, not just extremists. It is no different than Jack Cafferty and Lou Dobbs racist, anti-immigrant paranoia.
When Muslims refused to stand for being insulted in the name of "free speech", when the same paper refused to mock Jesus Christ, the Danes were confused by the reaction. It isn't extreme to reject a racial insult and call it that. Those cartoons weren't just meant to be offensive, they were meant to degrade Muslims and their beliefs, despite the Danes not allowing Muslims to integrate into the wider society.
The same kind of racial paranoia CNN hosts are upbraided for, are part of Danish parlimentary politics, they even have a political party based on it.
The Danes thought they had a free shot at Muslims and they got any thing but.
Rushie, being a Muslim, was a target of state terror because the Iranians wanted to play politics. He was being punished for his ideas on Islam, not because he mocked Islam to diminish the humanity of others, which is what the Danes did and then expressed shock that muslims worldwide were deeply offended and boycotted their goods. Did they issue a fatwa to kill the Danish PM? No. Extremists played on this, but this wasn't just due to them.
Rushdie's fate was due entirely to extremists and anyone who boycotts his speech is an idiot.
posted by Steve @ 12:00:00 AM