Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Free Speech Wins at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Walid Shoebat is a reformed Palestinian terrorist who has been speaking out against jihad and anti-Semitism.

When the Conservative Union at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee invited him to campus, the Muslim Student Association tried to get the UWM administration to ban him.

Under pressure from the media, and especially Conservative talk radio, UWM administrators relented and agreed to let Shoebat speak.

It’s a clear victory for academic freedom.

So what’s been happening in the last 24 hours?

Sykes did a segment on it this morning.

Who is This Guy Shoebat?

Via Sykes Writes, a video clip.



Will Muslim Students Demonstrate Against Shoebat?

We yesterday reported that the Muslim Student Association would stage a demonstration against Shoebat. UWM was preparing for that, with space set aside both outside the Union and within the meeting hall for such demonstrations. (In the meeting hall, students would have been allowed to hold signs, but not to disrupt the discussion.)

A member of the organization told WTMJ that a demonstration was planned.

But it seems that the current plans of the MSA are not to demonstrate. An e-mail from Aamer Ahmed of the MSA says:
We will be holding a counter-forum immediately after the Shoebat lecture which will be entitled “Why I Chose Islam.” We are not planning to disrupt his speech as we recognize his right to freedom of speech. However, our main focus is on dialogue, diversity, and understanding and not conflict. We do however hope to educate the campus community on the background of Walid Shoebat prior to the event.
This, of course is an excellent plan. Indeed, the Muslim students have every right to stage a demonstration against any speaker they dislike.

That won’t make people forget that they preferred to shut the speaker up, however. Nor make people forget that they actually claimed that letting Shoebat speak would have threatened the physical safety of Muslim students.

Belling Weighs In

Our previous post had links to the Charlie Sykes and Jay Weber segments on the controversy. Yesterday afternoon, talker Mark Belling weighed in.

Belling went on one of his patented rants about how Muslims are bigots. We are a bit put off by such broad-brush rhetoric, although a lot of Muslims have a real problem where Israel is concerned, and a considerable minority will countenance terrorism.

Saying that Muslims are deplorably intolerant of Israel is no worse than saying that, circa 1955, Americans were deplorably intolerant of blacks. And, of course, there are politically correct leftists who today shriek that America is a “racist” nation.

But we still wish that Belling was a bit more restrained about what he says.

Is the UWM Policy Unconstitutional?

Blogger Rick Esenberg, a UWM alum, chimes in defending free speech, and makes a potentially critical point.
You never know how accurate a news report is, but it seems that the amount of the fee may have been set based upon the anticipated reaction to Shoebat’s views. As a general matter, this is unconstitutional. The government has the right to charge for the cost of policing an event, but, in general, it can’t set that fee based upon an assessment of the speaker’s views and the likely reaction to it.

The paper notes that other universities have banned or restricted Shoebat speeches, but they are private institutions. UWM is a public university and, while it may impose reasonable time, place and manner regulation, it does not get to engage in viewpoint discrimination. Basing the amount of a fee upon what a speaker will say and how others may react to it does that.
Whether anybody will bring this issue before a court, however, is questionable.

Want to Come?

Attendance will be somewhat limited -- apparently due to security concerns.

UWM students will be allowed in with a student ID.

Members of the community can attend, but they have to register to do so.

If you want to register, you can simply e-mail the Conservative Union and asked to be put on the list.

[Update]

It seems the talk will be open to the public without preregistration.

We just got the following e-mail from Josh Dirkse:
John- following a meeting today with the administration. We were able to negotiate regarding the access list for the event. The event with now be open to all [the] public, and will not require individuals to pre-register. I apologize for the rapid developments!
It seems the rapid developments are good ones.

You can see Shoebat Tuesday, December 4th, 7:30 PM in the UWM Union Wisconsin Room. The address is: 2200 E.Kenwood Blvd., Milwaukee, WI 53221.

When we hear from the Muslim Student Association about their counter event, we will post that information too.

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