Thursday, May 7, 2015

University of Minnesota Muslim students insulted over poster for free speech debate

The reason?  The poster showed one of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.  Muslim students and others, having no concept of why the 1st amendment is so important to a free society circulated a petition;  "...eight people filed complaints with the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office, saying the depiction of Mohammed was offensive and insulting to Muslims. In addition, some 300 people, including 260 Muslim students, signed a petition calling the flier “very offensive.” “Knowing that these caricatures hurt and are condemned by 1.75 billion Muslims in the world, the University should not have re-circulated/re-produced them,” the petition said, and it urged the U to prevent it from happening again"

In this case, their histrionic outrage fell on deaf ears and the school sttod fast to the principles of free speech.  This will not be the last attempt to silence critics of Islamic texts and teachings, but for the moment they have been stymied in Minnesota.

From the Star Tribune May  by Maura Lerner

Poster for free-speech forum sets off debate at University of Minnesota

A poster for a campus forum on the limits of free speech has set off a debate at the University of Minnesota — about the limits of free speech.

The poster, which first appeared in January, prompted hundreds of complaints from Muslim students and others for reproducing a controversial illustration of the prophet Mohammed from the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo.

But it’s the university’s response to the complaints — just weeks after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo — that drew fire from some faculty members.

After initially demanding that the posters be taken down, university officials quickly rescinded the ban, calling it a mistake. Then the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action investigated and advised the dean of liberal arts to disavow the use of the offending image and “use your leadership role to repair the damage” it caused in the Muslim community.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law, said she was taken aback by the U’s response. “There is no question in my mind that this [poster] was protected speech,” Kirtley said.

The incident, which has been simmering behind the scenes for months, first was reported April 29 in the Minnesota Daily. On Tuesday, it drew national attention in the online journal Inside Higher Ed, in the wake of Sunday’s attack by gunmen on an anti-Islam cartoon contest in Garland, Texas.

Prof. Bruno Chaouat said the January forum, which he helped to organize, was designed as “an opportunity to educate about free speech.” He called the university’s reaction — deciding to launch an investigation — part of a worrisome trend.

“I think what’s going on is a global problem … of self-censorship,” said Chaouat, who is chairman of the Department of French and Italian. In particular, he called the recommendation to disavow the poster “profoundly outrageous.”

John Coleman, the liberal-arts dean, said Tuesday he has no intention of following that recommendation. “I really think the important thing here is to affirm and reaffirm the importance of open debate,” he said in an interview. That freedom, he noted, applies to everyone, including “Muslim students, Christian students, Jewish students. We want everybody to feel that they are able to express their views and either agree or disagree.”

The poster featured a now-famous drawing of a tearful prophet Mohammed, holding a sign “Je Suis Charlie,” which appeared on the cover of Charlie Hebdo days after Islamic militants killed 12 staff members at the magazine’s Paris headquarters.

On the poster, the word “censored” was superimposed on the drawing, under the heading: “Can One Laugh At Everything? Satire and Free Speech After Charlie.”

Organizers say the forum drew more than 200 people.

Read it all

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