American colleges, it seems, are hardly bastions of free speech, a thesis eloquently documented on the website of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and in the book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of Debate, by FIRE founder Greg Lukianoff .(I have a spare copy which I’ll soon offer as a prize in a contest, but this book is mandatory reading for free-speech advocates).
We’ve already seen this with the revocation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s honorary degree at Brandeis (shame be upon them) this week. Now we have yet another example of campuses caving into to Muslim threats, and in some ways it’s even worse.
The film gives a platform to exclusively female voices and seeks to expose the paralyzing political correctness that prevents many from identifying, understanding and addressing this international human rights disaster. Freedom of movement, the right to education, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation are some of the systematic abuses explored in depth.
Spurred by the Arab Spring, women who were once silent are starting to speak out about gender inequality and are bringing visibility to a long history of oppression. This project draws together leading women’s rights activists and provides a platform where their voices can be heard and serves as inspiration to motivate others to speak out.
It was scheduled to be screened on two campuses: the University of Michigan at Dearborn and the University of Illinois in Chicago. The results were almost predictable. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—the same group that complained to Brandeis University—protested that the film was “Islamophobic”, and the two school duly canceled the screenings.
FOX News reports: (sadly, it is to such conservative venues we must turn to for this kind of information):
CAIR started a Twitter campaign a few days ago against the film, calling it ‘Islamophobic,’ the term groups such as CAIR use not to mean prejudice or fear against the religion, but a fabricated term used to denote anything unflattering to Islam.
It’s a tactic used by CAIR and others to successfully and often indefinitely quiet any criticism of Islam, even when it’s shining light upon the practice of honor violence and depriving young women of education, two central themes in the film.
This films is about genital mutilation, honor killing, and forced marriage of underage girls—as well as other misogynistic practices in many Islamic countries. It features nine Muslim women discussing and decrying such practices. And still, an American group of Muslims bays and whines, for they don’t want the dark side of their faith exposed.
This scenario is all too familiar, and we must stop giving in to that kind of pressure. College and universities, sadly, are even less open to such views than America in general, as Lukianoff documents in his book. Wedded to political correctness, American universities are all to ready to bow to ridiculous accusations of “Islamophobia.” How can Muslim women be Islamophobic.” They’re afraid of the trouble Muslims could cause if their feelings are hurt.
One of the women in the film, the eloquent activist Qanta Ahmed, a self-described “observant Muslim” and a physician in New York, speaks out against the canceling of the film:
With this act of censorship, the movie has become a metaphor for its message. Just like the women and girls it portrays, the movie has been silenced and its progenitors shamed.
While honor crimes take place in many cultures, they are most prevalent today in the Muslim-majority world and increasingly in Muslim diaspora communities settled in the West. Our movie examines the work of nine women activists, many of them Muslim, in defending and rescuing these victims.
As an observant Muslim who has lived in Saudi Arabia, the center of the Muslim-majority world, as a woman of Pakistani heritage, and as a female physician who has identified and reported both adult and child victims of abuse, I contributed to the expert commentary in Honor Diaries, and did so willingly without compensation of any form. I did so in accordance with my values as a Muslim: We are mandated by Islam to expose any injustice, including among our own.
Crying Islamophobia, and thus slandering the movie’s backers, Muslim groups have demanded that universities cancel these screenings. Contrast this with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last weekend, where my colleague Dr. Maha Al-Muneef was honored by President Obama for the humanitarian work she as a Saudi Muslim physician has performed in exposing the abuse of women and girls in her own country — work that won first the admiration and later the patronage of the Saudi monarch himself. If a country as religiously restrictive and theocratic as Saudi Arabia can tolerate educational and social campaigns exposing the violence against women and girls, why in a country as robust as the United States are Muslim groups permitted to stifle public discourse in the academic sphere?
. . . American universities, especially vulnerable to accusations of discrimination or even marginalization, are easily frightened and persuaded to do the bidding of entrenched political Islamists.
. . .True to their core Islamist — not Islamic — values, they seek to silence any examination of the deep-rooted plight of the most vulnerable in our own communities. Such examination would expose Islamist ideals as hollow and fundamentally misogynist. By crying Islamophobia, the critics marginalize women and girls, who are utterly dispensable when it comes to realizing the Islamist political vision.
Universities, of course, should be the strongest bastions of free speech, for that is where our youth learn the give-and-take of free discourse and how to weigh conflicting opinions. It’s shameful that these universities have bowed to the implicit threats of Muslims. Would they have cancelled films documenting the pedophilia of Catholic priests? I doubt it.
I have huge admiration for women like Ali and Ahmed (could someone please get them on the atheist/secularist speaker circuit?), who are, after all, endangering their lives by speaking out against the injustices of Islam. If you want to counteract this shameful censorship by American universities, the film has an Indiegogo campaign to support its screening throughout the U.S. You could do worse than donate a few bucks.
University of Michigan and University of Illinois—join Brandeis in the Dishonor Roll of Cowardice.