Measured Against Reality

Monday, May 14, 2007

Another infringement of free speech

Via Ed Brayton I'm made aware of an insane case of violation of free speech at Tufts University. The school newspaper printed an ad critical of Islam, saying,

I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them." -- The Koran, Sura 8:12

Author Salam Rushdie needed to go into hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini declared a fatwa calling for his death for writing The Satanic Verses, which was declared "blasphemous against Islam."

But you see, those things are true. It's really easy to find ways to paint Islam as violent, barbaric, and backwards, and that's mostly because in many parts of the world it is. Of course, this doesn't mean that all Muslims are anything; it's impossible to go from saying "the Koran condones violence and mandates submission" and "Islamic countries are intolerant of criticism and outside ideas" to "ALL MUSLIMS ARE EVIL!!!" The first two claims are true, the second is clearly false.

What's the school's reaction to a newspaper ad filled with true statements?

In the case of the Muslim Student Association ("MSA") v. The Primary Source, by a vote of 7 to 0, we find that the MSA proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, that The Primary Source harassed Muslim students at Tufts, and created a hostile environment for them by publishing "Islam-Arabic Translation: Submission." The Committee found that the MSA established that the commentary at issue targeted members of the Tufts Muslim community for harassment and embarrassment, and that Muslim students felt psychologically intimidated by the piece.

These decisions are grounded in our conclusion that although Tufts students should feel free to engage in speech that others might find offensive and even hurtful, Tufts University's non-discrimination policy embodies important community standards of behavior that Tufts, as a private institution, has an obligation to uphold. Our campus should be a place where students feel safe, respected, and valued. Freedom of speech should not be an unfettered license to violate the rights of other members of the community, without recourse.

Read that last sentence again. What it says is that Freedom of Speech, the very first right guaranteed to all Americans, is less important than the right to, "feel safe, respected, and valued." Last time I checked feeling "safe, respected, and valued" is NOT in the bill of rights, or any enumeration of rights. So Tufts has just said that they don't think freedom of speech (or of the press) is a right, but feeling warm and fuzzy inside is.

For the life of me I cannot fathom how someone could possibly believe that. It's just ludicrous. It is absolutely absurd, completely ridiculous. People do not have a right to feel respected and valued, and they only have the right to feel safe in the sense that no one can directly threaten them.

And their statements beg the question, how was that ad making them feel unsafe, disrespected, or unvalued? All it did was quote truths. If quoting from the Koran makes Muslims feel any of those things, then they have some kind of problem. Maybe they realize that Islam as it exists today doesn't mix with the modern world, but just don't want anyone pointing it out. Whatever the case is, their religion is not free from criticism, nor should it be.

All I can say is shame on Tufts, and I hate the fact that this happens so damn often. Why doesn't free speech matter to academics anymore?

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  • "Last time I checked feeling "safe, respected, and valued" is NOT in the bill of rights, or any enumeration of rights."

    I cannot help but point out that the last section of the 10th amendment specifically says that the list of rights it contains is not exhaustive, i.e. not a complete enumeration of the rights of the people, and further that the lack of inclusion of any right was not to be interpreted as disparaging them in relation to the enumerated rights.
    Because of this, your comment is a non sequitor.

    On the other hand, I agree with your point.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:44 AM, May 21, 2007  

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