Free speech in the U.S.
The proximity of these two events, the difference in the arguments and the vast chasm of difference between the outrage and violence against one, and the great silence and complicity with the other, tells us much about what we need to know about the state of free speech — and academia — in America today.
Milo Yiannopoulos – The riots at Berkeley caused national and international headlines.
On the first day of the month, the conservative activist and writer Milo Yiannopoulos was due to speak at the University of California, Berkeley. To the surprise of absolutely no one, some of the new anti-free speech brigades attempted to prevent the event from happening. But to the surprise of almost everyone, the groups who wish to prevent everyone but themselves from speaking went farther even than they have tended to of late. Before the event could even start, Yiannopoulos was evacuated by security for his own safety. A mob of 150 people proceeded to riot, smash and set fire to the campus, causing more than $100,000 of damage and otherwise asserting their revised version of Voltaire’s maxim: “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to your death my right to shut you up.”
Jonathan A.C. Brown – NO outrage. Few headlines.
On February 7, at the University of Georgetown, Jonathan A.C. Brown, the director of the entirely impartial Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown, gave a 90-minute talk entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery”. Except that the white convert to Islam, Jonathan Brown, apparently did not think that there is a particular problem with slavery — at least not when it comes wrapped in Islam.
During the talk (which Brown himself subsequently uploaded onto YouTube) the lecturer condemned slavery when it took place historically in America, Britain and other Western countries, but praised the practice of slavery in Muslim societies. Brown explained how Muslim slaves lived “a pretty good life”, claimed that they were protected by “sharia” and claimed that it is “not immoral for one human to own another human.” Regarding the vexed matter of whether it is right or wrong to have sex with one of your slaves, Brown said that “consent isn’t necessary for lawful sex” and that marital rape is not a legitimate concept within Islam. Concepts such as “autonomy” and “consent”, in the view of the Director of the Alwaleed Center at Georgetown, turned out to be Western “obsessions”.
Of course, Jonathan Brown’s views on Islam are by no means uncommon.