21 February, 2006

Challenge to Classroom Materials or Incidents

Challenge to Classroom
Materials or Incidents

The University adheres to the United Nations Uni-
versal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19,
which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom
of opinion and expression; this right includes
freedom to hold opinions without interference
and to seek, receive, and impart information and
ideas through any media and regardless of fron-

In a university, the student may encounter ideas
or images that fall outside her personal value sys-
tem or frame of reference. The university's goal is
not to alter the student's beliefs or values but
rather to produce globally aware, responsible
graduates with the capacity for independent criti-
cal judgment, exhibiting respectful understand-
ing of diverse points of view and a tolerance for
perspectives that differ from her own, as Islam
promotes. Sensitivity to local culture is consid-

Source (pdf)


TwinTopaz said...


A Caricature of Freedom
M.J. Akbar, mjakbar@asianage.com

One of our editors asked the Danish Embassy in Delhi to let us know if they had any libel laws. They promised to get back to us. We are still waiting. But text is not difficult to find in the age of Internet. I quote from Section 266B of the Danish penal code:

...Section 140 adds, “Those who publicly mock or insult the doctrines or worship of any religious community that is legal in this country, will be punished by a fine or incarceration for up to four months.”

John B. Chilton said...

Indeed. And what does mock and insult mean, did the cartoons do that, and who gets to decide? The laws in the UAE are more specific, I think.

secretdubai said...

Friend on mine doing art at a university here said one local girl got really furious when some fine art involving female nudity (like Botticelli's Venus or something) was seen in the class.

Why bother going to a western/international university if your mind is as closed as a steel trap?

BD said...

Excellent point, J. Chilton. A university should be about open ideas and its students should be mature enough to view and discuss a great variety of things without concern or fear that it will harm them. Even if the cartoons are truely offensive the offense has been carried out by the illustrators, those who originally published them and those who sought to use them to fan the flames of outrage. These 3, if any, are the guilty parties.

Anyone who displays the pictures now, especially in a university setting, are obviously doing so for the purpose of discussion and debate. Again this is part of the learning process. It's riduculous that you have this raging internaional controversy and people especially in institutes of learning would suggest that one cannot view the object of all the controversy. People--especially adults and young adults in a learning institution--have minds and they can handle controversial subjects. It's ludicrous how people are being coerced into sticking their heads into the sand.

John B. Chilton said...

Actually, bd, I don't think it would be right and proper to display the cartoons here. It is by now well known that if you show them _now_ in our environment the purpose must be to offend. I don't think the ZU instructor knew that, but perhaps she should have.

But that ought not mean we cannot ask our students why it is offensive or to discuss them in other ways. I don't blame instructors, though, for not bringing it up. Because even the if the likelihood of being misunderstood is tiny it is still there.

Besides, provocative is not equivalent to efficacious when it comes to a learning environment even if the the learning environment we've all bought into - faculty and students - is openness to new ideas.

TwinTopaz said...

Guys...does "freedom" and "openness" has ANY limits in your dictioneries..or its limitless???

have u heard the phrase "Your freedom ends where my nose starts"?

secretdubai said...

It was my impression that the average muslim's nose doesn't extend as far as a newspaper in Denmark in a language they don't even speak, but perhaps I'm wrong.

Perhaps you guys just have really really long noses ;)

John B. Chilton said...


The metaphor "your freedom ends where my nose starts" is a powerful one, but it is also a false one. Yes I know where another nose literally begins. But the nose's analog is another person's culture. By definition I cannot be fully informed if I have not grown up in that culture.

To be informed means relying on being told, or asking questions. What if the questions are offensive?

Regarding Danish law my opinion is that they have created a pit guaranteed to upset someone. Better, in an open society like _Denmark_, to simply not place limits on speech. See, Instapundit: "with European countries happy to punish some speech that is regarded as beyond the pale, the discussion has shifted from whether censorship should exist at all to when it should be justified. This is yet another reason why a general rule in favor of free speech is actually better for ensuring social peace than a set of rules prohibiting offensiveness."

Other societies may choose other systems - because if Denmark is a model of freedom they don't want it - and make it clear to nonmembers that if you want to live with us this list of acts are what is proscribed. And that's fine. But it is your obligation to inform me. And to make some allowance for some error because communication is always imperfect.

I trust you do not want to insist upon the rights of one society to dictate to another society what system it may democratically adopt. I'm sure there are plenty Danes who believe the UAE should allow the families of low income expats to join them. Or that the UAE should allow long time residents to become citizens. And they are offended. And so on and so on and so on.

TwinTopaz said...

See i know it’s hard for a non muslim to under stand why muslims are so pissed of!! may be they didn't know the religious/ cultural/social boundaries of muslims..Ok lets give them benefit of doubt!!

But now they know!! ..they now know what offends muslim..rite?

So by any scale of decency it requires that one should express regret..(and if u think its too much..) atleast refrain form repeating the same mistake and do not keep defending his actions... rite??

Why it is difficult for west to understand that muslims have big noses (yes SD!!) and they get easily offended whenever their religion matters..they are NOT like west where they have freedom to even mock Jesus??

is this that difficult?

BD said...

There was no mass hysteria among Muslims when these cartoons were first published and circulated. Sure, some were upset but there was no mass hysteria. The mass hysteria came when certain people of influence within Muslim circles began to make a big fuss. Clearly the flames were fanned. If the images were so offensive why would religious leaders go on to further publicize them? It seems there are motives here that are far more temporal than defending the honor of Islam. Those who have incited the hysteria are pursuing an agenda that again has nothing to do with defending the faith.

There are I suspect leaders whether religious or otherwise who like seeing the Arab crowds in streets and squares rallying against the West. It is like when the Chinese government allows protests when the object is something or someone foreign. It deflects internal critisicm. I really believe that is what is going on here, while the Arab in the street wrongly believes it's an issue of faith.

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