Monday, May 3, 2010

A Meeting With the Associate Dean of Students

At 3pm this afternoon, I met with Kevin Helmkamp: the Associate Dean of Students.

He seemed legitimately interested in hearing the AHA perspective, and the reasons why we we felt that the event was necessary. He agreed that it "was a good topic to grapple with," but brought up many of the same arguments we have already heard from others who oppose the event.

1) This is not the best way to start a dialogue.
2) It targets innocent Muslims instead of radical Islam.
3) Just because you can offend others doesn't mean you should.

I will concede the first point. With regards to #2, I would argue that both radical and moderate Muslims need to acknowledge that others have the fundamental right to criticize Islam - and even to draw cartoons of Muhammad if they so choose. As for #3, we shall see if I truly can...

When I asked about his opinion about the legality of our event, he stopped short of making a definitive statement about whether or not AHA will be found to be in violation of any code of conduct - as the issues involved are complex and a delicate balance between defending free speech and preventing "hate" speech. He assured me that the university's lawyers were working on it.

One particularly interesting thing he had to say was this:
"Our office tends to be the office where aggrieved groups want to come and expect us to spread our little dean dust and make it all right. "

If the MSA actually does support my freedom of expression, there is no need to resort to dean dust.

6 comments:

  1. I don't think your actions match up with your ideals.

    How exactly does drawing stick figures of Muhammed stand as criticism of Islam? It's a protest of a religious rule. A topical substitute would be to hand out ham sandwiches as criticism of Judaism.

    It appears that what you're really doing is criticizing those who take offense to the images of Muhammed, and your method of doing so is to offend them. Basically, you're doing something you know to be offensive in order to offend people and criticize them for being offended.

    The MSA invited you to discuss the issue of religious dogmatism encroaching on freedom of expression. If you truly were concerned with the debate and not the show, you'd take them up on their offer - whether or not you go through with your plans.

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  2. You completely misunderstand the point.

    We are doing this as an act of solidarity with Trey/Matt and others who have evidently lost their right to criticize Islam, or more specifically, to depict images of Muhammad if they so choose.

    No one is interfering with my right to eat ham sandwiches. If there were, say, some Jewish organization attempting to remove ham sandwiches from deli's across the world - you better believe I would be protesting that too.

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  3. Well put, darknecross.

    This point could have been made without intentionally offending the entire UW Muslim student population.

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  4. How else would you have made the point that drawings of Muhammed should not be censored in our society? Saying how wrong it is for CC to censor South Park?

    Talk is cheap. No one is expecting the MSA to not be offended. They have every right to be offended. We are simply expecting them to not try to interfere with the AHA's right to free speech.

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  5. Humanists should not be afraid to be controversial. Simply existing as non-believers (and especially groups of non-believers) offends many religious people. We enter the discussion as blasphemers. Owning up to our irreverent and controversial nature lets the world know that we aren't going anywhere. We won't be winning any converts this way, but our ideals are more important than the length of our membership lists.

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  6. @youngstownhumanists:

    ir·rev·er·ent   [ih-rev-er-uhnt] Show IPA
    –adjective
    not reverent; manifesting or characterized by irreverence; deficient in veneration or respect

    blas·pheme   [blas-feem, blas-feem] Show IPA verb,-phemed, -phem·ing.
    –verb (used with object)
    1. to speak impiously or irreverently of (God or sacred things).
    2. to speak evil of; slander; abuse.
    (from dictionary.com)

    I am an atheist.

    As an atheist, I'm not sure I am willing to be categorized wholesale as "deficient in veneration or respect". I don't inherently enter this discussion as a blasphemer, because I have nothing but respect for my friends of faith and the God(s) they choose to worship. I do not slander or verbally abuse them, even though the law grants me the opportunity. I also don't aspire to be irreverent or controversial; I'm not sure why being intentionally provocational is perceived by some to be such a noble thing.

    I'm not afraid of a good, complex discussion. But controversy for controversy's sake seems totally contrived.

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