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A Timely Article Regarding The Suppression Of Free


  1. The following article appeared in todays The Australian.

    A timely article given that there are some who are advocating the suppression of Islamic discussion on this forum.



    Janet Albrechtsen: Free Speech Takes a Beating

    30oct02


    THAT thug who last week fired shots into the home of Brisbane Courier-Mail journalist Hedley Thomas and his family needs to spend years in a solitary prison cell writing over and over again Voltaire's proud defence of free speech: "I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it."

    That heinous attack on free speech in a suburban street of Brisbane is no surprise given that even on campus, Voltaire is old hat. Universities prefer a new revised version of free speech. Describing life in American universities, The Wall Street Journal editorialised: "Shut up, you're violating my civil liberties."

    Australian universities may not be far off. And when Voltaire finds more resonance in a country pub than on campus, then the gun is pointed straight at the liberal democratic tradition.

    The extraordinary reaction to a website launched last month by Middle East Forum's Daniel Pipes suggests that Free Speech 101 is off the university course list. The site campus-watch.org monitors how academics teach Middle East studies at US universities. It collects their writings and exposes factual errors, biases, the intolerance of different views and the abuse of power over students.

    The website should be part of the rich and robust intellectual debate we so desperately need after September 11 and the massacre in Bali. But it isn't.

    Far from being participants in the marketplace of ideas, academics are screeching that, in the name of free speech, the website should be shut down.

    It's been labelled a "hate website" according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Others say it's online "McCarthyism" and "racist". From Oklahoma University's history department, 19 of the 26 professors recently wrote to the Oklahoma Daily complaining that the website inhibits the "free and open exchange of ideas".

    The vitriol confirms Pipes's findings: those who teach Middle East studies not only follow a pro-Arab, pro-Palestinian, pro-Islam path but want opposing views strangled at birth.

    The course "Politics and Poetry of Palestinian Resistance" at the University of California, Berkeley, where the syllabus says "conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections" (that is, choose a different subject) sums up the orthodoxy: deviations from the anti-West, anti-Israel line are not encouraged. This is politics, not an intellectual debate.

    US universities are spin doctors of diversity. Militant Islamic groups parade around campus spreading their anti-West virus. Harvard's academic year recently commenced with a speech to 35,000 people by Hamas supporter Zayed Yasin entitled, "Jihad is not something that should make someone feel uncomfortable".

    Unless, as Pipes says, you apply the Encyclopedia of Islam's definition of "jihad" – "a military action with the object of the expansion of Islam". Diversity preaches that we ignore that uncomfortable definition.

    In this lazy academic world, intolerance is like fertiliser – it grows more brazen and hypocrisy blossoms. What makes academe feel uncomfortable? Real diversity. So the US military training program, Reserve Officers Training Corps, is excluded from campus. Confirming prize-winning author Abigail Thernstrom's description of campus life as "an island of repression in a sea of tolerance", the only time Pipes requires security is when he speaks on campus.

    At least Pipes gets to speak. At Montreal's Concordia University in September, violent protests prevented former Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu from speaking. Yet four days later at a Colorado College conference, Hanan Ashrawi, a former spokeswoman for Yasser Arafat, spoke uninterrupted on "September 11: One Year Later".

    The real problem with Campus-Watch is that this intellectual pursuit is relegated to an internet website. It should be part of the daily cut and thrust of academic and student life. Don't hold your breath. The Wall Street Journal reported that a study of 21 universities published a few months back in The American Enterprise found a disturbing uniformity of left-wing political beliefs within university faculties. Hardly groundbreaking research but it confirms the importance of Campus-Watch.

    Anecdotal evidence suggests Australian universities may also suffer from an enforced left-wing political orthodoxy across faculties. Certainly high-profile academics like La Trobe University's Robert Manne use a familiar intolerance baton. In the name of free speech, Manne tries to shut down debate by labelling those he disagrees with as the "new racists".

    Manne is no Robinson Crusoe. He follows the Edward Said tradition of using academic rhetoric to create a black list of those to be excluded from intellectual discourse. Said used the label "orientalism" to deride opponents as anti-Muslim bigots. Manne uses "new racism". Different words; same modus operandi.

    Free speech and diversity is also under attack off campus. In parliament a few days after the Bali bombing, Labor politician Mark Latham indulged in a tirade of abuse against conservative columnists (including me) all in the name of diversity. There are not enough journalists from the western suburbs, lamented Latham. He's right but diversity, Latham-style, says sack the conservative columnists.

    Better a heated debate than Latham's chill on free speech. Free Speech 101 says beware those whose language is sprinkled with liberal doses of the "diversity" word and its twin sister "free speech". Like air kisses at an opening night, it's all for show and counts for nought.

    If our leaders – on and off campus – don't respect Voltaire, don't be surprised when kooks in suburbia display a similar disregard.

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