Monday, May 18, 2015

Should speech critical of Islam be banned on campus?

Muslims say it should but law professor Volokh says that would violate the 1st Amendment

Huffington Post (Alexandra Svokos) reports that conservative firebrand David Horowitz spoke at the University of North Carolina, and said (among other things) that “the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine are associated with terrorist organizations” and “intend to ‘kill the Jews, to push them into the sea.'”

Muslim students spoke out against those statements, and “began an online campaign called #NotSafeUNC to show how they have felt discriminated against on and around campus.”

What I found noteworthy, though, was the statement from Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations:

"[Anti-Muslim speakers] create a hostile learning environment for Muslim and Arab-American students, and that’s what they’re designed to do. … They’re designed to demonize Muslim and Arab students"

“Hostile learning environment,” of course, isn’t just a general term of condemnation — it’s not just calling something “offensive” or “insulting” or even “hate speech.” Rather, a “hostile learning environment” (also known as a “hostile educational environment”) is a legal term of art, referring to something that violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act or other bans on discrimination in education. Many campus speech and conduct codes, including UNC’s, ban speech or conduct that creates a “hostile environment.” The federal government has stated that speech that creates a hostile environment based on national origin is barred by Title VI. Indeed, CAIR has in the past called for the federal government to investigate allegations of a hostile learning environment.

So the statement is suggesting that, in CAIR’s view, “anti-Muslim speakers” may already violate campus speech codes, and that universities may be under a legal obligation (under Title VI) to exclude such speakers.

Now I think that a public university’s exclusion of anti-Muslim speakers — or, more broadly, speakers that are harshly critical of Islam generally or certain strands in particular — would violate the First Amendment, and Title VI cannot constitutionally be interpreted to require universities (public or private) to exclude such speakers. There is no “hostile learning environment” exception to the First Amendment, and I think cases striking down campus speech codes support that position.

But I thought that it was worth noting that CAIR’s view is different: CAIR seems to think that the force of law — and of campus speech codes — should indeed be used to exclude anti-Muslim speakers from university campuses.


Anonymous said...

It's another attempt by Muslims to use/abuse the "freedom of religion" principle to get round (or hide behind) all and every criticism; just as some so-called Christians do to exercise their bigoted attitudes in the public sphere (like those anti-gay cake-bakers).

Anonymous said...

I notice that they didn't deny what Horowitz said. Apparently it was true.

Anonymous said...

The Muslims have learned well from the socialist left.

Bird of Paradise said...

I say again Muslims Go Home