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Mohammed Cartoons in the Classroom, in the News:

The Colorado State University Collegian reports on what happened when Professor James Lindsey showed three of the Mohammed cartoons -- "includ[ing] a satirical sketch of the prophet wearing a bomb on top of his head and another that depicted him wielding a sword, surrounded by women" -- to his about 125-student Islamic history class. They originated from a Danish newspaper.

Zaki Safar, vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said the cartoons make the holy figure out to be a terrorist and a "sex maniac" who oppresses women.

"The one with the bomb on his head was the worst," the Saudi Arabia native said, still teary-eyed just after 2 p.m., when class let out. "I cried with tears in the middle of the class."

Other students chuckled at the cartoons or were puzzled at the reaction, he said.

The professor, James Lindsay, said he presented the cartoons in response to student inquiries; several students told him they did not understand the logic behind the anger over the cartoons.

Normally, he said, he stays away from addressing current events in the history course, but this time he decided to take the opportunity to offer students some context....

He showed the Danish-drawn cartoons lampooning Muslims and Muslim-drawn cartoons satirizing Europeans and Jews, along with historical and modern Islamic texts and art....

What's worse is that these and other cartoons widen the gap between Islamic and Western cultures, Safar said, and that's exactly what his student group is trying to combat.

He said freedom of speech should be used responsibly and not give such a powerful voice to the most ignorant in each culture....

Students interviewed on campus Thursday afternoon generally supported the professor's decision, so long as the presentation was tactful.... But Safar was firm in his belief that the blasphemy should simply not have been shown.

"(Lindsay) made a huge mistake by putting up the cartoons," Safar said. "Not only that, he's making the gap between the three religions bigger and bigger.... Making chaos between people -- I don't think that's the correct way of achieving peace." ...

"My job is not to bring people together," Lindsay said. "My job is to teach history. History is not pleasant in many cases, and I made it very clear in class that this is America and you all have the right to offend but you do not have the right to not be offended."

Free Guy:
It's too bad that it's accurate to say that what Prof. Lindsey did took guts!
2.17.2006 1:14pm
Thief (mail) (www):

"My job is not to bring people together," Lindsay said. "My job is to teach history. History is not pleasant in many cases, and I made it very clear in class that this is America and you all have the right to offend but you do not have the right to not be offended."


Hear Hear!

In a just world, this man would be teaching history at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, or UChicago, not Colorado State.
2.17.2006 1:18pm
Allen Asch (mail) (www):
On the subject of double standards in the Muslim world regarding cartoons, I just saw an October 2005 Iranian children's cartoon that makes "the prophet wearing a bomb on top of his head" look positively tame.

This particular cartoon is available at:

http://tinyurl.com/db4fk

If you cannot use the pop-up video player at that address, the transcript is at:

http://www.memritv.org/Transcript.asp?P1=906

And I'm just starting to look through the wealth of translated Muslim material at:

http://www.memritv.org

Allen Asch
2.17.2006 1:28pm
H. Tuttle:
>>In a just world, this man would be teaching history at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, or UChicago, not Colorado State.<<

And your basis for such a hortation would be what exactly, while side-swiping all dedicated and talented teachers in those institutions not making your cut?
2.17.2006 1:30pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
I wish I had a history professor like that... Instead I just got a "C+" for criticizing Lenin.
2.17.2006 1:43pm
CEB:
Every faculty office and lounge in every school in this country should display a sign that reads, "My job is not to bring people together, my job is to teach [my subject]." If that philosophy were to take hold, education could become a powerful tool for bringing people together. I am convinced that the current attempts to bring people together (e.g., emphasizing differences and grievances) serve to drive people apart.
2.17.2006 1:47pm
Taimyoboi:
"He said freedom of speech should be used responsibly and not give such a powerful voice to the most ignorant in each culture...."

Contrary to the student, I always though it better for a student (or anyone for that matter) to make public an erred view so that they can be corrected, rather than keep their ignorance to themselves.
2.17.2006 1:48pm
JohnAnnArbor:
"Not only that, he's making the gap between the three religions bigger and bigger.... Making chaos between people -- I don't think that's the correct way of achieving peace."

Let's see him talk to his co-religionists about that.
2.17.2006 1:51pm
Daniel Palmer (mail):
I notice the Muslim student didn't mention how the Arab drawn cartoons lampooning Jews shouldn't have been shown.

I think the cartoons were mostly stupid. They were drawn for the sole purpose of offending (at least that is what I have read), and as such they had minimal editorial value and the paper could and perhaps should have not published them.

Now however, the extreme reaction of many Muslims leaves many non-Muslims confused about what the big deal is. Showing the cartoons and explaining why they are offensive and asking why the Arab cartoons showing Jews as big nosed apes should not be equally offensive are reasonable and appropriate.

The essence of free speech is the right to offend; whether it's a protestor burning a flag or an "artist" displaying a crucifix in a glass of urine. The best way to deal with an idiot is to ignore them. Instead the Muslim reactions around the world have only made them look backward and ignorant.

During the Dark Ages when the Catholic Church was suppressing any thought contrary to church teaching as blasphemous, the Muslims preserved the works of the great Greek and Roman scholars. The Muslim universities produced great doctors, philosophers, and teachers. Today it is the Muslims who seek to suppress that which is non-Muslim and would push the world back to the dark ages. What a shame.
2.17.2006 2:03pm
Robert Cote (mail) (www):
I have decided that by every law, tradition and cultural more the killing of Americans is blasphemy. The US will respect the wishes of the Muslim community and no longer attempt to educate its citizens about the dangers of zealotry as part of a joint agreement with the entire Muslim world to stop their blasphemous killings.
2.17.2006 2:12pm
Clay (mail):
"He said freedom of speech should be used responsibly and not give such a powerful voice to the most ignorant in each culture...."

This is a conflation of two separate issues... the moral issue of how a right should be used, and the right to exercise the particular right as one sees fit. What makes it a right is the latter. And in a political discussion the use of such "shoulds" at least vaguely implies you aren't really supportive of the right.

I also want to point out that a "powerful voice" is merely loud, perhaps annoying, and not necessarily persuasive. Whereas a riot, or an Islamic Caliphate, exercises the power of the sword in order to silence those who choose to be neither persuaded nor passive.

Power is exactly the opposite of what is being used by someone who chooses to speak, argue, persuade, etc... you could say "it's merely the power to persuade," but this is fuzzy language when the opposite of talking is literally killing. The differences in meaning are too stark to justify using the same word in this context.
2.17.2006 2:34pm
Kipli:
On a related note, this bill recently was given a "Do Pass" recommendation by the Higher Education committee of the Arizona State Legislature:

SB1331:

Each university under the jurisdiction of the Arizona board of regents and each community college under the jurisdiction of a community college district shall adopt procedures by which students who object to any course, coursework, learning material or activity on the basis that it is personally offensive shall be provided without financial or academic penalty an alternative course, alternative coursework, alternative learning materials or alternative activity.

Objection to a course, coursework, learning material or activity on the basis that it is personally offensive includes objections that the course, coursework, learning material or activity conflicts with the student's beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.

There are several troubling aspects to this bill, not the least of which is how it will be possible to determine what activity an individual finds truly "personally offensive" and what he just doesn't feel like doing. (I know of some students who would claim offense when required to turn in homework.)

But with respect to Prof. Lindsey's class, what alternative coursework or activity could have possibly substituted for showing the cartoons and discussing why some people might find them offensive? How else could that (legitimate) topic of class discussion be addressed?

People like Mr. Safar, who are unable to make the fundamental 'use/mention' distinction, and bills like SB 1331, which make 'being offended' a classification worthy of protection, make for a confusing and frustrating mix.
2.17.2006 2:48pm
Mr Diablo:
Kipli, that bill almost made me lose my lunch. Horrible to think that institutional academic freedom would come under such an assault... except it seems to be happening more and more from the left and the right. Reminds me of Bill O'Reilly's joint crusade with the North Carolina legislature (at least the GOP members) who, when the students were asked to read, "Approaching the Qu'ran" reacted with a threat to pull funding and sue to stop the book from being taught.

Prof. Lindsay did a great job it sounds teaching and discussing these cartoons. It's shameful that Muslim students put arbitrary clauses of their own faith ahead of the nature of academy. One more piece of proof that perhaps, fundalmentalists of their religion may not be compatible with Western ideals. That some people on this board would presume to know his politics and try to turn an academic lesson into political fodder, again speaks volumes. They tried the same thing with Breyer's quote 10 seconds after it was posted.
2.17.2006 2:57pm
Jim T:
Hmm, Ward Churchill at Colorado. Jim Lindsay at Colorado State. I think my kids would be going to CSU if I lived out there.
2.17.2006 3:06pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Tuttle: That would be the University of Chicago that fired Jacob Levy and Daniel Drezner, from a department run by idiots like Cathy Cohen (the politics of hip-hop) and Robert Pape (suicide bombers are really foreign policy critics).
2.17.2006 3:18pm
Thief (mail) (www):

And your basis for such a hortation would be what exactly, while side-swiping all dedicated and talented teachers in those institutions not making your cut?


My apologies. I wasn't trying to disrespect Colorado State, but those "other schools." Historians like Lindsey who do not suffer from the moral cretinism (of the kind noted above by Robert) that has afflicted the vast majority of the discipline are rare, precious commodities. My most fervent wish is that they could get into positions (big-name history departments) where their students would actually have a shot of breaking in to academia themselves and becoming professors. But thanks to a tenure system inherently hostile to anyone not in sync with the multi-cultural drummers, it will probably never happen.
2.17.2006 4:08pm
Ivan (mail) (www):
I may be slow, but I'm having trouble understanding that last line from the professor. When he says, "but you do not have the right to not be offended," what does he mean?
2.17.2006 7:22pm
ficus:

I may be slow, but I'm having trouble understanding that last line from the professor. When he says, "but you do not have the right to not be offended," what does he mean?

If it were my right not to be offended, then it would be the duty of someone else (perhaps many others, or all others) to refrain from offending me. Do you agree? If you disagree, then explain in what sense I would have a right not to be offended.

The duty not to offend me would be a restriction of that other person's right to speak freely.
2.17.2006 8:35pm
Thomas Roland (mail):
Ivan, you're slow. Hope ficus helped you understand.

Allen Asch: The Islamists are in principle FOR ONE STANDARD. They (presumably like you) deplore DOUBLE STANDARDS. My sister, like the Islamists, is a religious nutcake, in her case a Jesus-freak. My sister, like the Islamists, have ONE STANDARD: my god is the only true god and all others are false gods. My god deserves and demands respect; your god deserves ridicule and condemnation. My sister and the Muslim nutcakes consistently apply their SINGLE STANDARDS. I also have a SINGLE STANDARD: they're all nutcakes.
2.18.2006 12:07am
bob mitze (mail):
The computer industry teaches us that God loves standards because He made so many of them.
2.18.2006 8:43am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

I think the cartoons were mostly stupid. They were drawn for the sole purpose of offending (at least that is what I have read), and as such they had minimal editorial value and the paper could and perhaps should have not published them.


It seems that every person who discusses the cartoons feels obligated to comment on how they personally feel the cartoons were of

Here's a free hint to everyone: Freedom of artistic expression doesn't protect only the Mona Lisa, nor does freedom of literaty expression extend only to the federalist papers.

Hence, complaints that the cartoons have "minimal editorial value" have no relation whatsoever to the discussion... and makes me think the person who wrote that included it soley because he is cowering in fear over the possiblilty of being called a bigot. How far we have fallen.

Value? Here's their value: The fact that these MILD cartoons inflamed such a major reaction... or more precisely, a cleric who USED those cartoons inflamed such a extreme reaction... shines a ray of daylight on a major, major problem with Islamist intolerance that no one wants to talk about unless something this extreme happens.

As such, the cartoons aren't of limited value. Instead, they are priceless.

Now, it may be that people will learn the wrong lessons from this episode... 'wrong lessons' of course being a judgement call... but that won't be the fault of the cartoons. They just pointed out the problem. It falls to moderate Islam and the West to solve it.
2.18.2006 10:24pm
E (mail):
I think the cartoons were mostly stupid. They were drawn for the sole purpose of offending (at least that is what I have read), and as such they had minimal editorial value and the paper could and perhaps should have not published them.


When publishers cannot find illustrators for a childrens book that discusses Islaam because Norwegian artists are too afraid to accep the contract, then there is a strong editorial reason for soliciting editorial cartoons about this fear. They were not drawn to offend, but rather to stimulate conversation about one culture giving into fear and another culture creating those conditions of fear.
2.18.2006 10:36pm
E (mail):
Argh.

s/Norwegian/Danish/p
s/accep/accept/p

s/Argh./I should have used a spellchecker/gp
2.18.2006 10:38pm