Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More Censorship on a College Campus

From National Review, yet another story of censorship on a college campus.

We’ve all noticed, of course, that censorship is more likely to happen on college campuses than anywhere else in American society.

If there is one thing that militant Islamists will not tolerate, it is the charge that they are intolerant. Back in 2005, it will be recalled, the publication by a Danish newspaper of cartoons mildly satirizing the violence recently inflicted in the name of Islam generated violent protests throughout Europe. Most American television networks and newspapers, normally eager to cover “controversial” stories involving fundamentalist Christians, refused even to display the cartoons so as to show what the fuss was about — for fear of giving “offense.” More recently, an indirect allusion by the pope to the historic tendency of some leaders of Islam to spread their faith through violence, along with an exhortation to consider the proper relation between faith and reason, led to another wave of violent protests, including the murder of a nun in Africa.

The administration of Pace University, a largely business-oriented school with 14,000 students on its campuses in New York City and the Westchester county area, recently joined the self-censorship bandwagon regarding Islamism when school officials warned the school’s chapter of Hillel, the national association of Jewish college students, against screening the award-winning film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, on the ground that the film might incite hate crimes against the college’s Muslim students.

Michael Abdurakhmanov, the Hillel president at Pace, said that, as a courtesy, he had told the college’s Muslim Students Association about the planned showing and invited the association to suggest a speaker for a panel that would comment on the film following its showing, but that the association instead notified a dean. Having heard rumors that the dean, Marijo Russell O’Grady, wanted to block the film’s showing, Abdurakhmanov made an appointment to see the dean along with the head of the student organizations on campus, David Clark. Shortly after the meeting with Dean O’Grady began, Abdurakhmanov reports, the dean “warned” him that because of the recent “hate crimes” that had been committed against the Koran at Pace — a few weeks earlier, two copies of the Koran had been found in toilets on campus, and (unspecified) racial slurs had been discovered on walls — any attempt by Hillel to show Obsession might result in the police being called in, and Hillel officers being investigated as possible suspects in the bias incidents. Mr. Abdurakhmanov reports that, while bias incidents had been committed against Judaism as well as Islam, “school administrators showed concern only for the sensibilities of Muslim students.”

Abdurakhmanov told the New York Times that Hillel still plans to show Obsession in the spring. The president of the MSA, Zeina Berjaoui, however, said that her organization would oppose the showing because the film “says Islam is a terrorist religion.” No reasonable viewer of the film should come to that conclusion — but then again, Berjaoui evidently didn’t claim to have seen it. However, it may help to clarify Berjaoui’s perspective to note that she is a Lebanese woman who told a reporter for NYU’s Urban Journalism Workshop, during an anti-Israel demonstration in New York last summer amid Israel’s military response to Hezbollah rocket attacks, that “Hezbollah is just a resistance movement,” one that “like Hamas, is giving the Palestinians and Lebanese a voice.” In other words, Pace has effectively allowed an apologist for Islamist terrorist groups to exercise veto power over the portrayal of Islamist terrorist groups on campus.

It is understandable, though hardly excusable, that several European governments, faced with substantial, restive, domestic Islamic populations, have treated the problem of radical Islam with kid gloves. What excuse can there possibly be, however, for an American college administration to try to suppress the showing of a film that graphically illustrates the problem? Is it healthy or desirable for mainstream American Muslims to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, by trying to prevent an open discussion of it?

We frankly wish that someone would show the film on the Marquette campus.

Our guess is that, if a student organization did it, the campus bureaucrats would react the same way those at Pace did.

There is a history here.

First was the 2005 Arab Heritage Celebration. The events, many sponsored by the University Ministry, MUSG and the Office of Student Development, demonized Israel and made excuses for Palestinian terrorism.

The second was a September 2005 program sponsored by Manresa titled “Jews of Conscience.” Again, the panel was virulently anti-Israel. The implicit definition of “Jews of Conscience” was “Jews who are anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian.” Pro-Israel Jews, apparently, are thought not to have a conscience.

The reality, on many (if not most) college campuses today, is that Muslim students are considered a politically correct victim group like blacks, women and homosexuals.

The bureaucrats see themselves as being in the business of protecting such groups, rather than encouraging free speech.

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