Ever since I started writing this blog over a decade ago, I have argued that when "freedom of expression" and "freedom of religion" clash, I want us to choose freedom of expression.
I much prefer competition in the marketplace of ideas to stifling the expression of ideas. But, sadly, this competition is being blocked and thwarted by too many people with strong political voices, saying essentially, "If you say that, we will shut you down."
A recent example comes from Trinity University in Dublin [why is it so often universities that try to limit freedom of expression?]:
[T]he cancellation of yesterday's planned lecture on 'Apostasy and the rise of Islamism' by Iranian human rights activist Maryam Namazie is something that should worry us all. ...
There was a telling insight into the mentality of the organisers, the Society for International Affairs (SoFIA) who expressed concerns about their ability to host the event: "In a safe environment where individuals are free to express themselves without fear of being threatened after the discussion."
Just who did they think would cause a disturbance after the event? Namazie's fellow apostates who face an automatic death sentence in 11 countries around the world for seeing sense and leaving their faith?
Or maybe they were worried about how some of Trinity's Muslim students might have reacted? After all, the Trinity Muslim Student Association recently hosted a radical cleric called Sheikh Kamal El Mekki, who was there to explain why apostasy and infidelity are sufficient reason to kill people.
Freedom of expression for me but not for thee? This sounds amazingly unbalanced.
Universities used to be bastions of the defence of freedom of expression. They used to defend mightily their explorations of unpopular ideas. And yet, it appears, many universities nowadays shy away from challenging the extremist Islamists.
It's time for universities to regrow a backbone. It is time for universities to renew their role of encouraging students (and faculty members!) to explore diverse views and to provide a safe, if uncomfortable, environment for these journeys.
Addendum: See this, in which a professor strongly negative views about Hamas and is bullied by students at Connecticut College. It is a lengthy piece, but it looks as if he was targeted not just for that expression but for his other views as well.
Also, see this, which I wrote many years ago about my late friend BenS and his confrontation with the speech police.