Middle East studies in the News
The Spreading Tentacles of Censorship [on Phyllis Chesler]
by Eileen F. Toplansky
The list of those who are "disinvited" to forums where free speech should exist keeps getting longer. In some ways, it is a badge of honor to be included in that list; in other aspects, of course, it is the abject failure to respect the right to hold an opinion. Ultimately, it is "campus fascism" on the rise.
Phyllis Chesler is the latest victim after having been "disinvited by the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas Law School." In her article titled "Being a Zionist is even worse than being an Islamophobe," she describes being censored by a state university. She was part of a conference on a subject on which she is an expert, having studied the topic of honor killings for many years and she has a track record as an academic, an author, a human rights activist and women's rights leader. But none of this mattered since, as so many are learning, "objectivity, true facts, clear reasoning, genuine intellectual diversity and the capacity for self-criticism" are now verboten -- gone from centers of academic learning.
Instead they are replaced with vulgarity, incivility, obtuse thinking, censorship, and outright violence.
Bruce Bawer writes a searing appraisal of the hypocrisy of three Center faculty members -- Joel Gordon, Ted Swedenburg and Mohja Kahf -- who "slammed" Chesler. These three found Chesler's alleged anti-Muslim bigotry, hate speech and lack of a diversity of views so abhorrent that she needed to be shut down. The fact that Chesler has "spent her career decrying the systematic misogyny in Islamic cultures" while highlighting the refusal of many of her former feminist allies to address this issue was just too much for these intellectual weaklings.
Thus, Phyllis Chesler joins the ranks of other worthy and courageous individuals such as Milo Yiannopoulous, Ann Coulter, Charles Murray, Heather McDonald, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish, Brigitte Gabriel, and David Horowitz, whose voices are being silenced in institutions of higher learning.
And so the symposium went on without the expertise of Dr. Chesler. In fact, "no one contacted [her]. No one sent a letter of regret or support and no one issued a statement of solidarity." Consequently, ". . . yet another disgraceful episode in the ever-lengthening chronicle of campus compromise and cowardice on the topic of Islam" occurred.
It is way overdue that every one of these speakers who truly put their lives on the line to uphold the core principle of freedom of speech receives the unwavering support of all Americans.
It is way overdue that parents of students attending schools such as the University of Arkansas, University of California-Berkeley, and Claremont McKenna College to name a few, should remind administrators that such suppression of expression is a "view at odds with the foundation of this country. In fact Frederick Douglass, once said "speech suppression is the equivalent of theft." And if a university fails to acknowledge this supremely profound idea, then it no longer deserves financial support.
It is high time that administrators publicly explain how they can justify violence on a campus that is supposed to be dedicated to the freedom of thought. Instead what we see are "administrators responding to the intellectual thuggery with sympathy and understanding." They need to be held personally accountable for the violence and censorship.
Heather MacDonald describes how campus attacks on speech are getting bolder and more organized. In fact, "... at Middlebury College last month, the assault on the American Enterprise Institute's Charles Murray came near to injuring him and did injure faculty member Allison Stanger. Nor are conservatives the only targets: last month Princeton philosopher Peter Singer was shouted down at the University of Victoria, in Canada, by disabled-rights activists accusing him of 'able-ism.'"
That a generation of young Americans is willing to give up their birthright of freedom is beyond alarming. Yet there has been push-back. Thus, "[a] pro-life group at Cal State Dominguez Hills will be allowed to partake in a social justice fair after all, a decision that comes in the wake of media and legal attention on the matter [.]" Originally the application of the pro-life group was met with an email saying that the "application was denied based on the reasoning that [their] organization does not fit within the framework of this particular event." After pressure, the school changed its initial decision.
Then there is student Pranav Jandhyala, who has established BridgeUSA. The group specifically invited Ann Coulter "to speak before a body of primarily liberally minded college students about the issue of illegal immigration." The event is "dedicated to a debate-style question and answer session with rebuttals, where a back and forth dialogue can occur." As Jandhyala asserts, "[t]he productive way to fight what one might perceive as bad ideas is with better ideas, and we are providing an opportunity to facilitate challenge while maintaining standards of constructive discourse that have been absent at other conservative speakers' events."
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has been in the forefront of freedom of speech cases. In February, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) "named DePaul University as one of the worst 10 universities for the protection of free speech."
And on and on it goes.
The anti-freedom ideology of the Left as well as that of Islamists feeds this. Deborah Weiss writes that "America is facing an ideological enemy which masks itself as a religion." Furthermore, "[t[hose who preach death to America and hatred in their so-called religious institutions, . . . want their worldview imposed on all Americans, and want to suppress free speech and open debate on this topic [.]"
Weiss explains that the OIC's idea of "Combating Defamation of Religions" is a "concept which gives an idea or religion, in this case Islam, protection from criticism, as opposed to what we have in the American legal system which only gives defamation protections to people."
Additionally, the OIC's definition of "defamation includes anything that sheds a negative light on Islam or Muslims, even if it's true and even if it's opinion. In fact, it goes even further and condemns any free expression that would violate Islamic blasphemy laws even when, and perhaps especially when, expressed by non-Muslims." This occurs notwithstanding the fact the concept of protecting Islam from 'defamation' is used in many OIC countries to persecute religious minorities."
For those millenials who are so concerned with "hurting people's feelings," I ask how to counter persecution of religious minorities as a result of OIC censorship? For those who think nothing of making fun of Christianity or Judaism, why do you maintain a double standard when it comes to an analysis of communism, or Islam, or fascism? Why the cynicism about certain aspects of America, and nary a word of criticism about other countries and systems of government? What exactly are you really afraid of?
That honest inquiry is shut down is truly a clarion call to what ails our society. The choices are very clear. Stand with Chesler and others in their right to speak their minds.
For as William Lloyd Garrison opined:
Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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