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Whatever happened to free speech?

Reader comment on item: The Rot in Our [Canadian] Universities

Submitted by Benjamin R. Hosen (United States), Feb 1, 2003 at 01:56

While some view Pipes' commentary as critical of Islam, Arabs and the Muslim world at large, he certainly appears to have strong academic credentials with regard to issues in the Middle East today. (Sad to say, I think there is much truth in his rather negative view of the Arab world.) The same cannot be said for, say, academics such as Edward Said (Literature) or Noam Chomsky (Linguistics), not that it has stopped them from spouting their rather venomous brand of Israel-bashing.

Those two certainly have strong opinions on the subjects of Islam, terrorism, fundamentalism, Israel, etc, whether based in fact or in pedagogy. Yet, it would be unthinkable, even in the present atmosphere, for an institution of higher learning to make up reasons to keep them from speaking, based on these opinions. Even if there were angry mobs of Jewish demonstrators lined up outside-- which, for the most part, have been absent.

Much as I tend to disagree with Said and Chomsky, I think they have every right to air their views; I think it important that even controversial points of view--- especially controversial ones--- should be allowed to see the light of day, to be debated in an open "marketplace of ideas". Universities would seem one of the more appropriate and more important avenues for this sort of exchange.

I am a "Liberal", I suppose, though rather hawkish on the subjects of terror and "Islamism" (as distinct from "Islam", which I think is not far removed from Judeo-Christianity--- "Islamism" is I think much closer to European fascism). After all, we are at war, whether our President is willing to ask us for the sacrifices needed to win it or not.

Pipes is not venemous as Chomsky, Said, and many other academics with a background in everything but the Middle East, foreign policy, etc, but that's beside the point.

That an academic like Pipes should be "controversial" is one thing; for it to be an issue whether or not he should be allowed to speak because of the content of his views is alarming, particularly given that far more extreme opposing views seem to provoke little or no outrage. Better, if it comes to that, that we have NO academic discourse on the subject--- which would obviously be disastrous, given the importance of all of this mess to our present national life.

Let the man speak, dammit. One could actually explore his ideas, and learn, and decide whether or not they hold up to debate, which is what I thought college was supposed to be about. I (REALLY) hate to quote that crook Spiro Agnew, Nixon's hatchet man, but many institutions and students seem more interested in proclaiming what they've already decided is truth, rather than learning that, perhaps, the world is alitlle more complicated, a lot less pleasant, than we'd like it to be.


BRH
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