Yusuf Estes Speech - CANCELLED by UK's Westminster University
Reason Given: "Just Because"
There is no doubt in today's world, Islam and Muslims are finding it harder and harder to speak about anything at all. First of all, to find a Muslim who is even willing to speak up, one who knows the religion, knows the languages and understands the society we all live in, and willing to take the time to travel all the way from America without being paid - to speak to Muslims about being patient in the face of the oppression they find themselves in more and more everyday.
And then - after taking permission, planning the program, advertising the event, bringing the speaker from the states - having the university itself cancel the whole event, in the last hour before the program - without any reason given.
Why? - Is this "Freedom - Not to Let Muslims - Speak"?
As long as Muslims sit back and do nothing - nothing will improve. Will you make a difference right now? Will you forward this page to everyone you know? You can do something - right now:
www.IslamNewsroom.com (forward it now)
Strangely enough we found this article about "Freedom of Speech" (regarding cartoons against prophet Muhammad) - on the very website of Westminster University.
The irony of whole thing is, Yusuf Estes talk was to be about "Return of Christ" - How much we have in common with our Christian neighbors" and demonstrating the best of Muslim character being neighbors with them.
‘Press Freedom and Religious Respect’:
A Debate Hosted by the Communication and Media Research Institute at the University of Westminster, 22/2/2006
Contributions appear in the order in which they appeared on the day, followed by a personal response from the issue editor. The event was webcast live on the day
and can still be viewed online, using either Quick Time or Real Player at tsp://nemo.wmin.ac.uk/~mad/cartoondebate.mov
Rania Al-Malky, Journalist, Egypt Today
Professor Steve Barnett, University of Westminster
Dr Des Freedman, Goldsmiths College
Ajmal Masroor, Media Commentator, Islamic Society of Britain
Professor Julian Petley, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom
Rania Al Malky
When he published the cartoons of the Prophet, Mr. Flemming Rose, editor of the Danish national newspaper Jyllands-Posten, exercised his fundamental right to
freedom of expression. No one has the right to take that away from him.
But what the Danish publication did in effect was not merely exercise its right to unhindered self-expression. As Cambridge philosopher Onora O’Neill pointed out
in an article that ran in the Guardian, the cartoons were intended to provoke selfcensoring Danes at the expense of offending a specific community of Danish
citizens. The paper could have communicated legitimate worries about selfcensorship in ways that would have found resonance and respect, had their
objective been a genuine desire to spark debate.
In a press statement Traugott Schoefthaler, director of the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue Between Cultures, wrote: ‘It is totally
unacceptable that a number of people start ideological fights in selecting human rights principles such as ‘freedom of the press’ against ‘human dignity and mutual
respect.’ All human rights are an indivisible whole, according to an agreement adopted by consensus by all Member States of the United Nations in 1993’.
Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture © 2006 (University of Westminster, London), Vol. 3(2):
103-121. ISSN 1744-6708 (Print); 1744-6716 (Online)
Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture 3(2)
The rights to free speech are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. As O’Neil points out, Article 10 proclaims a right to freedom of expression
characterized as ‘freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers’.
What most absolutists on the issue ignore, however, is the second half of the article: ‘The exercise of these freedoms, since it carried with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others’.
Therefore freedom of the press is not absolute by law, a fact that consciously controls the dynamics of editorial decision-making. As Independent columnist
Yasmin Alibahi Brown eloquently put it, ‘judgments are exercised daily by newspapers on what should or should not be published. There are internalized
restraints of decency and civil duties of care’.
Indeed in some countries it is illegal to deny the holocaust and in the UK the incitement of racial hatred is a crime.
The recent debacle over statements made by Frank Ellis, the University of Leeds professor who invoked freedom of speech to defend himself against accusations of
racism, comes to mind. While no one can deny Ellis the right to hold whatever abhorrent, racist beliefs he may have within his own private circle, when it comes
to the public sphere, the slightest implication that ethnicity plays a role in IQ levels, no matter how far he can support it with empirical evidence, cannot be
tolerated in a any society, but more so in the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic societies which many European cities have become.
The analogy with the situation of Muslims in Europe is clear enough.
Some die-hard defenders of press freedom claim that to withhold publication of the cartoons is to set a dangerous precedent of self-censorship. Everything offends
someone, they say. In this case it’s a spurious argument. The fury at the cartoon wasn’t merely about showing the Prophet Mohamed -- countless Islamic
publications have done that through history despite it being generally unacceptable. It was showing an overtly offensive image of him that lit the first match.
I agree with Lawrence Pintak, Director of the e-journalism centre at the American University in Cairo, that what is missing from the debate is the fact that most
Muslims – and I would add here, European Muslims in particular – are different.
They come from different cultures. They see things differently. They have different thresholds for what offends. It is the failure to recognize and respect this
difference from both sides that has resulted in such polarization.
Many Muslims think: Why must the Western ‘tradition of lack of respect for tradition’ (and in turn religion, according to Roger Koeppel, the German editor
Die Welt which published the cartoons three times) be the norm to which we must all conform? Yes, everyone has the right to voice his opinion, to disagree, debate
and criticize, but not to cause gratuitous offence. In democratic societies Muslims have the right to object to the desecration of what they hold sacred, but must do
so within the boundaries set out by the law.
Yet the reaction of some in Europe and in the Muslim world has been outrageous and unacceptable. Burning buildings, inciting violence and issuing death threats are
the acts of people who not only lack confidence in their religion, but who have little knowledge of its core message. Not only is it un-Islamic, but it is also anti-
Islamic because it threatens social order and propagates fear, hatred and suspicion.
At the same time, it must be stressed that the escalation of violence didn’t simply happen overnight. Danish Muslims first sent letters complaining about the insult.
As expected, the letter fell on deaf ears – not a surprise considering Jyllands-Posten’s reputation demonstrated by the findings of a 2004 report by the European
Network Against Racism which asserted that the paper ‘devoted disproportionate time and space to negative reporting on ethnic minorities. The second insult came
from the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who refused even to meet Muslim diplomats and community leaders to discuss the issue. At that point
the boycott of Danish products began and the rest is history.
Why countries throughout Europe decided to reprint the drawings, despite the unequivocal knowledge that by doing so they risk offending 15 million of their
own citizens, is a question European Muslims have to confront everyday and one that the Western media must ask itself.
The whole situation has unfortunately played into the hands of authoritarian regimes and religious radicals who manipulated the emotions of understandably
distressed Muslims for their own political gain. Reactionary forces in the West jumped on the bandwagon and used the resultant
This is how the article ended - - -
Press Freedom and Religious Respect…
disproportionate, unjust and bullying. There was in my opinion, little justification for an organised protest of even the mildest kind and certainly not for the kind of
intimidatory tactics employed both on this and similar occasions in the recent past.
The right to free expression sounds very grand and is correspondingly easy to deride as self indulgent, fine for secure, well-fed, middle-class Westerners to
pontificate about. There is though, an associated and more humble right – the right to read. An individual human being, reading a novel or watching a play on the
television, is no threat to anyone’s universe. I think that as far as possible, an individual should be able to read, to watch, to listen to anything he or she pleases.
If we are to set aside that right then it has to be for the very best of reasons. That it might offend somebody is not good enough. The handful of recent examples
from Britain I have alluded to here are but an indication that the right to impart and receive information is not set in stone, unassailable, but has to be defended
week by week, article by article, play by play. Cartoon by cartoon.
One of the crucial functions of the media is to examine those institutions which wield power and influence in society. To varying degrees in different places, religions wield such power and influence. We simply cannot say that this area or that is off limits for criticism and must be made an exception of, whether this is driven by the best of motives such as the desire to be inclusive, or for less creditable ones such as the misguided and guilt-ridden liberalism which seems to infect some, or for the entirely dishonourable and pragmatic political reason of trying to re-gain some kind of favour with sections of the community who have been rightly alienated by an unjustifiable war. To repeat myself, we are not talking about abstractions here.
Take the recent example of the play Behzti (Dishonour), written by Sikh playwright Gurpreet Bhatti, which was the victim of religious-inspired thuggery on the one hand and abject cowardice on the other and forced off the stage. The play’s subject matter had uncanny echoes of the type of abuse which went on for decades in this country, in Ireland, in the USA and beyond, where vulnerable people, very often children were abused by those with power and influence over them. These scandals, (for which the Catholic Church to speak of one but by no means the only institution involved, is rightly paying a heavy price now) were allowed to continue for so long because the actions of those with authority, especially religious authority were not sufficiently questioned. No area of life can be beyond examination, criticism, even mockery. This is true for the smallest as well as for the largest institutions. It is simply too dangerous to act otherwise. The only healthy societies, the only free societies are those which permit bad news, in which all are called to account and in which there are no dark corners. That may make us uncomfortable, it may even make us angry, but it will keep us free and safe.
- Nice closing remarks -
Too bad it doesn't seem to keep it free for Muslims to speak.
Read the whole .PDF article on their website: