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USC Muslim Students Union Reacts to the Planned Panel Discussing and Displaying the Cartoons:

Here's the flyer expressing the Muslim Student Union's views. "Please come and voice your support for free speech and respect for freedom of religion," the flyer reports. Moreover, the flyer says, "Islam promotes free speech." Sounds great!

But, the flyer goes on, "it is important to recognize that anything that is discriminatory does not qualify under this heading" of free speech. I take it that the implication is that criticism of Islam, or critical depictions of Mohammed (or is it any depictions of Mohammed at all?), is unprotected because it's "discriminatory." How about Muslim statements that other religions are misguided; are those "discriminatory," too?

Plus of course there's also the old chestnut about the supposed "differences between free speech and hate speech." Fortunately, modern U.S. First Amendment law does not treat the two as antonyms, just as it wouldn't discuss "the differences between free speech and blasphemy" or "the differences between free speech and sedition." It's a shame that the USC Muslim Student Union takes a different view.

Finally, the flyer promises that the advertised meeting "will be discussing the ramifications of the continued unveilings across the country on the Muslim community at large as well as its political implications." Here's my sense of the political implications: If the Muslim community is perceived as hostile to free speech, and as friendly towards coercively suppressing criticisms of Islam, that's going to be quite politically bad for it, at least in America. If, on the other hand, leading Muslim voices were to defend even the speech of Islam's critics, and to stress that the proper response to offensive speech is peaceful debate, not suppression by violence or by force of law, that would be politically good for the Muslim community.

Justin (mail):
How many Southern California Muslims have suppressed Mohammad cartoons by "violence or by force of law"? Just curious.
4.13.2006 9:11pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
None that I know of, but based on what I know about Muslims' views on this matter, it's a safe enough bet that many have privately advocated precisely that, which may not be a crime, but is nonetheless something I find worrisome.

By the way, where is Adam Gadahn from?
4.13.2006 9:18pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
I haven't heard of any suppression by force and violence in the United States. Of course, now two purveyors of information and entertainment -- Borders and Comedy Central -- have claimed to refrain from displays of the cartoons of doom because of fear of violence. Of course, saying it does mean that it is true or that it is rational if it is true.

And let's not forget that this flier says nothing that speech-code-apologists of every race, religion, and creed haven't routinely said in our universities.
4.13.2006 9:26pm
WB:
Sounds like a step in the right direction... just a step, but still.

Better than NYU...
4.13.2006 9:52pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
WB, I agree, but I find it disconcerting that they are twisting the definition of free speech to exclude speech they consider discriminatory. I guess it's better (well, it's a lot better) than threatening a riot, but hey, it still sucks.
4.13.2006 9:56pm
wm13:
The predictions seem rather fanciful: have laws against Holocaust denial been "quite politically bad" for the Jewish community in Europe? Have speech codes at American universities been "quite politically bad" for the classes protected thereby? Not that I can see.

It would be wonderful if we lived in a liberal/libertarian paradise world, where people who defend liberal tolerance were rewarded by increased power and influence, and those who try to suppress freedom were themselves suppressed as a result of their bad acts, but the world doesn't work that way.
4.13.2006 10:21pm
therut:
It would be nice if we lived in a country that had some common sense and was not so culturly jaded and offensive. Feedom of speech is wonderful but it is even better when it does not have to give us the culture we now have. Offensive,crude,hurtful,unintelligent and angry and loud. Maybe the Founders were right that our Consitution was written for a virtueous people. That we are not even close to being. Don't get me wrong I am all for free speech it is just that some people seem to praise bad speech thinking they need to do so to protect speech. They forget free speech goes both ways. There is not enough people critical of speech. Our Universities seem to act like children in that the cruder the speech the more they praise the messsage. Reminds me of little boys bathroom humor.
4.13.2006 11:52pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
TheRut: This is an interesting argument in the abstract. But it's simply not apt as to the Mohammed cartoons. Most of them were quite substantive -- either esthetically or politically -- given the limitations of the medium (cartoons aren't optimal for detailed, careful analysis). And quoting the cartoons, now that they have been published, is necessary for purposes of discussing the controversy surrounding them (which is what the "continued unveilings" of the cartoons on college campuses are trying to do).

Now it's true that, though the cartoons are substantive and, now that the controversy has arisen, quite important, they are also offensive and hurtful to those who are offended and hurt by harsh criticism of Islam (or for that matter even by the entirely noncritical depiction of Mohammed); and some of them are angry at Islam. But that does not, in my view, make them "bad speech."
4.14.2006 12:09am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
I'm assuming TheRut was talking about South Park, not M-Diddy toons, but either way SP has proven an incredibly effective method for communicating certain ideas that otherwise do not find a wide audience, e.g., Wal-Mart is only as bad we let it be by shopping there.

It's <i>because</i> of its crudeness that it has found that audience - crudeness is what many tune in for - but that is a reflection on what we choose to buy, not what "they" choose to sell. And I don't think that dick-jokes were what the founders had in mind as a threat. What I think is meant by "virtuous people," in this context, is - a people firm in the belief that the good ideas will beat out the bad; that we do not need to muzzle the speakers of bad ideas.
4.14.2006 12:16am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
WB, I agree, but I find it disconcerting that they are twisting the definition of free speech to exclude speech they consider discriminatory. I guess it's better (well, it's a lot better) than threatening a riot, but hey, it still sucks.


I disagree. To paraphrase Dennis Prager, I think that clarity is better than agreement in this case. Better for them to come out and admit that they favor suppressing anything that they don't like rather than try to dilute the concept of freedom of speech by suggesting that there is "discrimination" exception.

Bottom line: those who us who value freedom don't need groups like the USC Muslim Students Union and we're better off with them standing firmly on the other side so that everyone knows where they really stand.
4.14.2006 1:00am
alkjalskdfjd;la (mail):
It may be a cartoon, there may be lots of swearing, but South Park is the most relevant critique of our times in the main stream media.

http://www.thevelvethottub.com
http://www.velvethottub.com

THE VELVET HOT TUB
4.14.2006 1:16am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
The predictions seem rather fanciful: have laws against Holocaust denial been "quite politically bad" for the Jewish community in Europe?


Interesting example, it wasn't even two months ago where we discussed the case of a man being imprisoned in Austria for the crime of Holocaust denial. Much to the chagrin of the Anti-Defamation League, our First Amendment doesn't permit criminal prosecution of bad ideas and silly beliefs.

Perhaps one of the best ways to protect freedom of speech would be to lock the ADL and the USC Muslim Students Union in a steel cage Thunderdome-style and let them finish each other off.
4.14.2006 1:16am
Gaius Obvious (mail):
Free speech chilled at Ohio State too:

http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/news/story.aspx?cid=3724
4.14.2006 1:19am
therut:
Thorley--------That is one of the best ideas I have ever read on this blog.
4.14.2006 2:02am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Gaius Obvious,

I read the link that you provided and the PDF with the complaint and some of the emails the precipitated it. I am curious though, since not all of the emails that were part of the discussion were included if there might have been something else to merit a harassment complaint that wasn't included.

As far as free speech being chilled. From what your link shows so far, someone made a complaint and the University is looking into it as they are probably obligated to do so when anyone makes a complaint of this nature. I don't see that as unreasonable on their part and as someone who works in an organization with established rules and procedures, I would be surprised if they didn't follow their established procedures when a complaint of this nature was being brought forth.

From what I can tell, the reference librarian seemed to intend his recommendations to be provocative rather than setting out to harass anyone (unless there is something else in the emails that weren't provided that suggests otherwise) and this appears to be an overreaction, perhaps intentionally with all of the right code words ("I don't feel safe") included to bring forth a complaint.

Unless this is part of a pattern of behavior or there is something that wasn't included in the PDF (like an incrementing email), it looks to me like another case of people who presumably adults but cannot handle their disagreements in a professional setting without running to human resources to file a complaint.
4.14.2006 2:11am
Everything Between (mail) (www):
Interestingly enough (and on a half-page ad mirroring the full page ad for the event mentioned above in Monday's Daily Trojan), a larger event featuring Daniel Pipes occured on the USC campus AT THE SAME TIME.

The Pipes event was sponsored by the Student Objectives Club, and did not promise the "free pizza" that was mentioned in the Muslim Club ad.

Here's a link to the Pipes event info -- I haven't heard any reviews of either event.

http://www.uscobjectivistclub.com/DanishCartoonLetters.html

the USC Muslim Club ad that appeared can still be seen here:

http://www-scf.usc.edu/~muslimsu/
4.14.2006 6:25am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Since the event happened this past Tuesday, does anyone have any information on what actually happened and was said at the panel discussion?
4.14.2006 12:10pm
David in DC (mail):
Thorley wrote:

"Much to the chagrin of the Anti-Defamation League, our First Amendment doesn't permit criminal prosecution of bad ideas and silly beliefs."

As far as I know, the ADL supports hate crimes legislation but does not support hate speech legislation.

Reading the statement they made (all I can find is this excerpt):


ADL Reacts to the Sentencing of Holocaust Denier David Irving

New York, NY, February 20, 2006 … While acknowledging that America's constitutional system bars prosecution for hate speech, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed understanding for the Austrian court decision to sentence Holocaust denier David Irving to a three-year prison term.

"Considering Austria's history during the Nazi period, the existence of laws against expressing Holocaust denial is understandable," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. "Irving is a key figure in efforts to legitimize Holocaust denial. At a time when the President of Iran is spreading this message of hate that Irving has propagated, the Austrian court has sent an unmistakable and important message."


This clearly doesn't support your statement.

You said the ADL supports "criminal prosecution of bad ideas and silly beliefs" in the U.S. Can you support that?

A Muslim group trying to redefine First Amendment "free speech" to their liking is a lot different than a Jewish group commenting on a hate speech ruling in Europe (and acknowledging their very different history from ours) or highlighting the alarming fact that the head of a major state is now spouting it.

Frankly, I agree with the majority here and think these speech laws should be done away with everywhere. IMO people shouldn't be jailed in Europe or stoned to death in Pakistan for speech.
4.14.2006 4:19pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Try reading again. The last sentence "At a time when the President of Iran is spreading this message of hate that Irving has propagated, the Austrian court has sent an unmistakable and important message"" is not a neutral statement, it clearly shows approval for the actions of the Austrian court in criminally punishing a man for his wrong beliefs in order to send an "important message."
4.14.2006 4:50pm
David in DC:
Thorley,

Thank you for your reply. I did read it again. Will you please read my post again. In it, I said:


You said the ADL supports "criminal prosecution of bad ideas and silly beliefs" in the U.S. Can you support that?


You also then made the statement:


Perhaps one of the best ways to protect freedom of speech would be to lock the ADL and the USC Muslim Students Union in a steel cage Thunderdome-style and let them finish each other off.


The popular term for this is "moral equivalence".

I still didn't see where they were advocating "criminal prosecution of bad ideas and silly beliefs" in the U.S, as you said. I've bolded the question you avoided answering.
4.14.2006 8:33pm
Rusty (mail):
How many Southern California Muslims have suppressed Mohammad cartoons by "violence or by force of law"? Just curious.

None. But they don't have to. All they need to do is muddy the waters enough for nonmuslims to become uncomfortable with the idea of parodying the prophet.In this instance the violence is implied. They(the students) count on us to give their opinion equal weight.That is an error on the nonmuslims part. Not all positions need to be considered equally.Anyone with an ounce of critical thought can see the the muslim students position cannot be defended. Even without the implied threat of violence, it flies in the face of the first amendment.It need not be given serious consideration.
4.15.2006 11:43pm