I just learned of this event entitled “Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons” that appears to have been co-sponsored by the University of Chicago chapter of our organization. I want to express my strong disagreement with our UC chapter’s decision to be involved in this event — I think our involvement should have been as protestors and not as co-sponsors.

My biggest concern is that the event was entirely one-sided. The event only had speakers who looked at the topic from the free speech perspective. The organizers in this article say that they asked leaders from the Muslim community to participate as well. But the event featured the 12 controversial cartoons on display at the front of the room. These cartoons are blasphemous and the Muslim community that the organizers say they wanted to attract specifically believes that the cartoons should not be on display. So, their display as part of the event shows absolutely no concern for those who hold alternative viewpoints. No wonder those with alternative viewpoints did not participate? When you do not take people seriously, they tend to treat you the same way.

Second, I think this is just the dead wrong way to explore this issue. There’s no conflict between the cartoons and free speech. No serious leaders are saying that people do not have the right to show the cartoons. They are saying they should not abuse that right. The point is simply that if a cartoon is that offensive to so many — and the potential point of the cartoon could be made as effectively in many less offensive ways — smart people should choose to get out their point less offensively. It’s just part of being a good person. The real question is thus whether responsible institutions in the media “should” (not “can”) hold themselves to a higher standard.

I am truly disappointed by this event and only hope that many more activities that we are doing as an organization to promote Hope Not Hate will help to overcome the hate speech exhibited by the display of blasphemous cartoons.

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