As is his wont, Mark Steyn has a few more things to say about the current brouhaha over Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brandeis University.
He wishes to emphasize that left thinking people have decided that free speech protection does not apply when one's words offend Islam.
When a Western feminist like Germaine Greer speaks out in favor of female genital mutilation, Brandeis welcomes her. When Hirsi Ali speaks out against the same practice, she is disinvited… eventually, denounced for being strident and provocative.
White feminist Germaine Greer can speak at Brandeis because, in one of the more whimsical ideological evolutions even by dear old Germaine’s standards, Ms Greer feels that clitoridectomies add to the rich tapestry of ‘cultural identity’: ‘One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation,’ as she puts it. But black feminist Hirsi Ali, who was on the receiving end of ‘one man’s mutilation’ and lives under death threats because she was boorish enough to complain about it, is too ‘hateful’ to be permitted to speak. In the internal contradictions of multiculturalism, Islam trumps all: race, gender, secularism, everything. So, in the interests of multiculti sensitivity, pampered upper-middle-class trusty-fundy children of entitlement are pronouncing a Somali refugee beyond the pale and signing up to Islamic strictures on the role of women.
While we all wait to see how many Muslims are willing to stand up for Hirsi Ali’s right to free expression, we note, with Steyn that Islam, as a cultural force, has long been the enemy of free and open inquiry and debate.
During Europe’s Dark Ages, learning was kept alive by Muslim scholars. Human civilization owes a debt to Averroes and Avicenna, among others, for protecting the writings of Aristotle et al.
But, now, students on American campuses have learned that since all questions have been settled, no debate, no diversity of opinion should be allowed.
Good-bye, marketplace of ideas.
Young Erin Ching at Swarthmore College has grasped the essential idea: it is not merely that, as the Big Climate enforcers say, ‘the science is settled’, but so is everything else, from abortion to gay marriage. So what’s to talk about? Universities are no longer institutions of inquiry but ‘safe spaces’ where delicate flowers of diversity of race, sex, orientation, ‘gender fluidity’ and everything else except diversity of thought have to be protected from exposure to any unsafe ideas.
University campuses must now be “safe spaces” where no one will ever challenging the prevailing orthodoxy.
Muslim cultures have been operating according to this rule for a thousand years. We are within our rights to ask: At what price? What are the consequences of stifling free expression, intellectual and scientific inquiry, to say nothing of free enterprise.
Steyn sums it up:
As it happens, the biggest ‘safe space’ on the planet is the Muslim world. For a millennium, Islamic scholars have insisted, as firmly as a climate scientist or an American sophomore, that there’s nothing to debate. And what happened? As the United Nations Human Development Programme’s famous 2002 report blandly noted, more books are translated in Spain in a single year than have been translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years. Free speech and a dynamic, innovative society are intimately connected: a culture that can’t bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity or carbon offsets is a society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast.
One is naturally reminded of famed atheist Richard Dawkins’ remark:
All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.
Of course, Dawkins was widely attacked for the remark. He later tried to set things straight:
I should have compared religion with religion and compared Islam not with Trinity College but with Jews, because the number of Jews who have won Nobel Prizes is phenomenally high.”
Race does not come into it. It is pure religion and culture. Something about the cultural tradition of Jews is way, way more sympathetic to science and learning and intellectual pursuits than Islam. That would have been a fair comparison. Ironically, I originally wrote the tweet with Jews and thought, That might give offense. And so I thought I better change it.
Of course, one does not like to paint any culture with such a broad brush. It’s like saying that all Muslims are terrorists, which is absolutely false.
And yet, a civilization may be judged by its track record, by what it has and has not contributed to the betterment of its people. When it comes to Islam, and increasingly, when it comes to the Western radical left, the record is not very inspiring.