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Free Speech No Excuse for Hatred

By Benish Shah Posted: 10/01/2007
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For a school focused on improving diversity and national recognition, it seems that the administration has chosen to take a backseat when it comes to divisive influences on campus. The most blaring example of this is allowing College Republicans to bring David Horowitz to campus, a man who has no qualms calling student groups fronts for Islamic terrorism.

In an era where Islam is already misunderstood by much of our nation’s population, it is irresponsible for the Emory administration to allow the College Republicans to invite Horowitz to campus to discuss Islamic terrorism during “anti-terrorism” week.

Horowitz knows little to nothing about Islam, and uses his miniscule knowledge to spark anger, hatred and frustration. Anger in Muslims who are misrepresented by his bigoted language. Hatred in Americans who have no knowledge of what Islam or terrorism is really about. Frustration in those Muslims and non-Muslims who have worked tirelessly to educate others about what Islam is, what the roots of terrorism are in war-ridden areas and that the acts of a few radicals do not define an entire religion.

The argument presented in support of Horowitz’s appearance at Emory is freedom of speech. If Emory were to deny him access to their students, Horowitz would turn around and label the school as one that denies humans the basic rights of the wonderful United States Constitution, because of its “liberal bias” towards the Muslims.

But, if Emory allows him access to their student body, they are risking their reputation amongst future students who will not view the campus as a place of higher learning, but a place of bias against minorities with a lack of commitment to diversity and understanding. For example, Emory would never allow a speaker on campus who proposed to discuss that the Holocaust was mere theory and not a well known reality.

Yet, Emory finds it to be good policy to allow Horowitz on campus, in an effort to protect the freedom of speech of student organizations. This, despite the fact that he offended the Black Student Alliance on Emory’s campus in 2002 and has offended thousands of Muslims across the United States with his bigoted views. College Republicans may have their own beliefs on what is right and wrong, but no organization that understands the meaning of free speech would allow the offensive language Horowitz freely spews.

Freedom of speech applies as long as that speech is not deeply offensive to another person, as long as it does not attack their dignity as a human being. For that reason, certain types of speech are prohibited, while others are looked down upon. Therefore, it is the responsibility of student organizations representing a political party of the United States to uphold the reasoning behind our freedoms — not abuse them by bringing in a speaker that will strip Muslims of their dignity simply because he feels that their religion is worth debasement.

Furthermore, these same arguments for free speech will turn against the Muslim students who choose to speak out if they attend this speech. They will be labeled as radicals who, like their “terrorist” counterparts, deny others the freedoms mandated by the Constitution. It will be forgotten that that same Constitution protects freedom of religion, human dignity, human equality and freedom of speech for Muslims, as well as radical non-Muslims.

Whether this was their intent or not, by bringing Horowitz to the Emory campus the College Republicans have made a statement in support of this man as a representation of their beliefs and values.

As a consequence, if Emory University allows Horowitz to speak freely about his skewed version of what Islam is about, the University also risks its reputation as a place of higher learning and knowledge. Institutions that promote knowledge and understanding do not allow the spread of one way of thinking at the expense of the dignity of an entire group of students and faculty.


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