Thursday, March 01, 2007

Freedom to Read 2007

UPEI President H. Wade MacLauchlan reiterates his reasons for preventing distribution of the UPEI Cadre in the Freedom to Read Review, issue dated Feb 25 - March 3, 2007, entitled Freedom to Read 2007: Current Censorship Issues in Canada. The Freedom to Read Review can be downloaded in .pdf format at http://www.freedomtoread.ca.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Freedom of Speech, Offensive Cartoons, and the Violence Veto

by Stefan Braun

from the Newsletter of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, September 2006: http://www.safs.ca/sept2006/braun.html

President MacLauchlan ascribes primary moral responsibility for the Danish cartoon violence to those (like the SAFS) who would peaceably speak as they think rather than to those who would think to bully, burn, or kill in response as they speak. By doing so, he legitimizes and, thereby, promotes the very messengers of intolerance and violence that he both fears and excuses in his defense of censorship. At the University of Prince Edward Island, freedom of peaceable political speech ends where freedom of religious offense, intimidation, and threat of violence, in response, begins. In short, censorship starts where freedom of speech really counts.

Perverse logic, to be sure. But today, this is conventional wisdom among (too many) “progressive” thinkers proclaiming Canadian values of tolerance, diversity, and democracy. That any responsible Canadian official could honestly hold such confused views on the parameters of legitimate public debate in a democracy would be embarrassing enough. That the President of a Canadian university does so is alarming. If we can’t freely, fully, and fearlessly debate one of the most important news stories of the year at institutions ostensibly committed to untrammeled inquiry and independent thinking, where can we?

But PEI officialdom are not alone in this kind of Orwellian “double-think.” Excepting free speech mavericks, like the Western Standard, it is shared by an increasingly cowed North American media. Fear of intimidation is, self-servingly, being confused with respect for religion, and official intolerance of independent thinking conflated with community sensitivity and multicultural harmony. Fundamental principles of democratic governance themselves are fallen victim to such befuddled logic’s patronizing yolk. Hate censorship laws in Canada are legitimizing the notion that, where freedom to speak counts most, official truth, official meanings, and even official histories, count more. Today, official, (that is, authoritatively delimited or directed) discourse can substitute for publicly constructed ones for fear of what an uncensored public might themselves construct -- or an offended community threaten. Increasingly, freedom of public debate on public matters is being defined not by reference to the social importance or political gravity of the issues in public contention but by the hurt feelings of offended “thought-thugs” or threatening bullies.

President MacLauchlan tries to fix the officially “right” campus politics by force of silencing, for fear of the “wrong” campus politics left free to independent thinking. Not unlike the belligerent offended, he substitutes threat, intimidation and might for free exchange of ideas, to “demonstrate” public right. To be sure, he, unlike those self-serving thought-thugs he officially protects from effective public criticism, is motivated by more noble considerations than himself. He acts neither to shelter from challenge his own personal beliefs, nor, he would contend, to advance the political agenda of any one distinct community at the expense of another, but rather for the benefit of the greater campus good. A quiet campus is better for learning than an unruly one; a socially harmonious educational environment preferable to a religiously divided one; an intellectually regulated diversity better for exchange of ideas than a rancorously intellectually one. Across many progressive Canadian campuses, censorial coercion, threat and intimidation are substituting for free thinking and independent debate, in the name of Canadian values of peace, order, tolerance, understanding, diversity, democracy and even freedom of inquiry. But can freedom to speak depend on the offended, and be free? Can the right to peaceably speak be subject to a violence veto, and be tolerant? Can official thinking substitute for public thinking and be self-enlightening? Can officially directed inquiry be intellectual diversity?

Social peace, and its calming political order, as the prerequisite, greater, public good has been the rationale for silencing public disagreement of every oppressive autocrat who has every sought to shield the official agenda and its dogma from effective outside scrutiny and challenge. That responsible officials, like Wade MacLauchlan, invariably fall victim to their own self-deluding myth of public service by public silencing, should come as no surprise. Censors’ unself-critical assumptions of social infallibility, and the patronizing arrogance, and intolerance for unregulated thinking, it breeds are mutually reinforcing. What we are witnessing flows naturally from mock exercises of freedom of speech in insular institutional environments artificially sheltered from the demons of independent debate by official guardians of the public mind. The power to decide who shall speak as they think and who shall not can cloud the clear vision of even the best intentioned.

To be sure, enforced silence can be socially soothing and politically seductive. But, precisely for those reasons, it is dangerously deceptive. Campus peace rooted in fear of force rather than the force of free thought is not genuine harmony. MacLauchlan confuses public quiet with public enlightenment; enforced silence with social harmony; directed discourse with honest debate. Over time, fear of independent public debate, frustration of political opposition, and intolerance of community offense comes with a price – to the detriment of the very social harmony, enlightened debate, and public order that Wade MacLauchlan, and other blinkered officials like him, aspire to with their censorship. Silencing public disagreement is democratically self-contradictory, and, ultimately, socially self-defeating, for many reasons.

Muzzling political opposition does not promote a stronger and more secure social order, but a more fragile one – as most every historical dictator has come to learn. Silence cannot expose ignorance, prepare vulnerable minds for the challenges of demagogues, or bridge community divides. Myopic and insular officials like MacLauchlan think they can ensure “right thinking” and thwart community division and public discord, with censorship. But they only postpone, and worsen, the day of public reckoning, instead. They do not confront feared social conflicts with open dialogue and honest discourse. They sweep them underground with hate silencing. They do not address deep-seated cultural divisions, nor expose festering political grievances, with independent inquiry and unfettered debate. They conceal or mask them with directed discourse, and chilled “discussion”, instead. Imposed harmony, however, endures only until the next political or economic crises tears it apart. Its synthetic community and facade of tolerance lasts only as long as the glue of repression holding its petrified parts together. Social censors, like Wade MacLauchlan, falsely promise greater tolerance and a more genuine community, with “positive” silencing. But they coerce an artificial social peace and procure Pyrrhic public victories of the moment, at the cost of later greater public defeats in the future, instead. “Right thinking” cannot be commanded; nor can right-thinkers be forever freed from challenge. The “right politics” cannot be officially frozen in time, by repressive campus speech and equity codes. Communist dictators tried, and even they, in the end, and at great cost, failed.

In the long run, official censorship for the “public good” serves no one -- not Canadian democracy or multiculturalism -- but the social dogmatists and the political demagogues of intolerance well.

Dr. Braun is the author of numerous scholarly articles on hate censorship, and the landmark book: Democracy off Balance: Freedom of Expression and Hate Propaganda Law in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004). Forthcoming: “Second Class Citizens: Jews, Freedom of Speech, And Intolerance on Canadian University Campuses,” Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice (May/June 2006).

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Newsletter of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, April 2006

This issue of the SAFS newsletter includes a six-page section on "UPEI Censorship." It can be read or downloaded, in PDF format, at http://www.safs.ca/april2006.html.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

UPEI President's Newsletter, February 28, 2006: The Cartoon Controversy and the Learning Environment

Posted on the official UPEI website: http://www.upei.ca/president/html/the_cartoon_controversy_and_th.html

Reprinted in part in the [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian, March 7, 2006: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/index.cfm?sid=1775&sc=11

Dear Colleagues,

The subject of this newsletter is the decision of The Cadre to print the now-notorious 12 Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the response of administration and the Student Union, and the debates that have resulted.

I expect that by the weekend of February 5th most colleague were following the reactions around the world to the publication and re-publication of the caricatures. When the news broke on CBC that the cartoons were in the February 8th issue of The Cadre, making it the first Canadian paper to publish them, I was shocked. Why should we choose to repeat an act that had caused so much offence and trouble around the world, and that was considered a religious insult by Muslims everywhere? I said to the editorial team at The Cadre: “This is jumping on a bandwagon that has already run over the cliff.”

As I returned from the Student Centre and my visit to The Cadre offices, the CBC cameras were already in pursuit demanding a comment. I said I needed some time to think; fortunately I had a lead on them. The media are not in the business of giving one time to think. My assessment was that there were great risks for UPEI and for our learning environment, and that the publication of the cartoons was a reckless invitation to disorder and humiliation.

Based on this assessment, it was decided not to permit the distribution of The Cadre on UPEI property. Fewer than 100 copies of the paper were gathered up by UPEI security personnel. There were approximately 200 in circulation by that time. 1700 copies of the paper remained in the hands of The Cadre or the Student Union. By late Wednesday, the Student Union, as owner of The Cadre, indicated its opposition to the publication of the caricatures and requested the return of the papers. The Student Union issued the following statement:

* While the Student Union supports the freedom of the press, there is also a sense that with that freedom comes the responsibility to balance freedom and responsibility effectively, a consideration that we feel was not accommodated in this case. While these cartoons were reproduced in The Cadre to inform students of the issues at hand and were in no way meant to inflict any further injury, it is now apparent that we must take into account the overwhelming reaction that these cartoons have caused worldwide and therefore we must react accordingly. It is also to be noted that there is a great deal of sensitivity involved with this contentious issue, a fact personified by the recent outrage and riots that were sparked in direct result of the publication of these cartoons. In consideration of this, in respect to those significantly affected, and for the overall well being of the UPEI community, it is felt that this action was essential. We reaffirm that despite this action, no further insult was ever intended by the publication of these cartoons in The Cadre.

We would like to extend apologies to all members of the Islamic community on PEI and across Canada who have, in any way, been detrimentally affected by The Cadre's original decision to print these cartoons.

In the two weeks since the events of February 8-10, there has been time for reflection and comment. There has also been time to interact with students, colleagues and members of the wider community. At a February 13th meeting with Muslim students and with our colleague Mian Ali, who showed such leadership through this matter, I asked the students how they felt on campus in the aftermath of the controversy. They responded that, for the first time since they had been at UPEI, other students were asking them in an engaged way about their faith. I cannot believe that these would be the conversations if the cartoons had remained in circulation. I had the same thoughts at our International Students Luncheon on February 10th, which is one of the most remarkable events of our academic year, with 300 people gathering to support international students and to celebrate the richness and diversity they represent at UPEI.

I was especially proud of the leadership shown by the Student Union in addressing a situation that was obviously not of its choosing. After initially taking a position favouring the editorial autonomy of the paper, the Student Union moved to demand that the remaining copies of the paper be returned.

We can all be impressed by an interview that Student Union President Ryan Gallant gave to the CBC on the Thursday morning, offering a sophisticated explanation of the decision of the Student Union to withdraw its initial support of The Cadre. Ryan described the Student Union’s “evolution of thought” in the following terms:

* “Well it was sort of an evolution of thought yesterday and I am sure everyone can appreciate it was a fairly stressful day in dealing with this situation. First of all it was seen flat out as a freedom of the press, freedom of speech kind of thing but as the day progressed and facts became more apparent we became aware that that wasn’t perhaps the most accurate way of depicting the situation” .......

“There is definitely an evolution of thought like I said. I guess it is a fine line that we are looking at on a very complex issue and I find myself I guess straddling that line in some ways. I guess the limitation that we came to was the idea that freedom of the press is not absolute and I disagree with the notion that the press has absolute control over everything at press. There is also a responsibility to balance it with justice, to portray things properly. So there is a level as a liberal democracy in Canada of having freedom to express what we want to but there is also a level of control and in terms of the ethical side, I think that was the part where we came in where, you know, if you are balancing the publication of a cartoon versus people who had real concerns about their safety and really about offending the entire Muslim community which I thinks is 1.1 to 1.3 billion people around the world, that the frivolous publication of a cartoon that has little or no value is definitely not enough to outweigh those other consequences. ”

This is a wonderful demonstration of the abilities of a UPEI student and of our student leadership, to articulate on public radio how one set of ethical considerations outweighs another, and to reach that decision in a time-limited, stressful situation. Even in the face of such a sophisticated explanation, the CBC persisted in implying that the change in position by the Student Union had been arrived at because of my influence. On this question too, the Student Union offered a straightforward, subtle response:

* MAIR: “Now I understand you met with the university president Wade MacLauchlan, is this right, four times?”

GALLANT: “Several times, yes. Some were discussing a few issues but yes, it was four times yesterday.”

MAIR: “Now was he trying to influence your thinking on this at all?”

GALLANT: “No certainly not. We just had a frank discussion on what we both thought about the issues and while I think we were fairly close together in terms of our opinion but like I said, it is a fine line that separates people on this issue. So no, he wasn’t trying to influence our decision. We were just trying to sort of discuss it and see where our concerns would be.”

Neither the Student Union nor the UPEI administration would have chosen or expected on the Wednesday morning prior to the release of The Cadre to be in the situation presented by the publication of the cartoons. But, once the paper was out and the cartoons were in circulation at UPEI, and once the national and international media had the story, all of which takes place in the space of minutes, one has no choice but to respond. UPEI could defend the editorial autonomy of the student newspaper, or it could take a stand that we would not permit the circulation on our campus of images that have caused religious offence and significant disorder all over the world. It is not an easy call: press freedom versus public disorder and religious humiliation. But, it is a call that had to be made, even though we didn’t choose to create the situation.

Some will say that we made the wrong call. It has been said that the role of the University should be limited to providing security to control against any violent reactions. That would be similar to the view taken by The Western Standard in its subsequent decision to publish the cartoons. I believe the University has a broader set of responsibilities and considerations to bear in mind. The ultimate obligation of a university is to provide and continually enhance a positive and dynamic learning environment. Universities must become ever better and richer as places of learning and animated debate. Yes, those debates should be robust and fully engaged, and we should be testing controversial ideas. But, our openness to controversy is not a licence to jump on bandwagons that have already caused enormous insult and disorder all over the world. And, with all due respect to autonomy of the editorial staff at The Cadre, we cannot avoid the fact that, while they are owned by the Student Union, they operate under the banner of the University of Prince Edward Island.

Is UPEI a more positive, dynamic and animated learning environment today than we would be if the cartoons had been left in circulation for the intervening three weeks, and their publication defended by the University as free speech? That is the core question. While I respect others who take a different view on this, I am absolutely convinced that our learning environment is better for having limited the publication of the caricatures. Students and colleagues are talking, in and out of class, about religious beliefs and differences, and about press freedom and responsibility. We are more alert to how intricately UPEI and PEI are laced into the global context, and to the incendiary nature of our world. However we come out on the publication or non-publication of the caricatures, we cannot avoid the conclusion that things are very fragile. In a context of such fragility, we do not have the luxury of justifying every act by saying: “Let the chips fall where they may.” As Student Union President Ryan Gallant put it so eloquently, we must take account of “the ethical side”.

I was truly proud of how Ryan articulated the situation, and how he openly acknowledged that we were dealing with a “fine line”. He showed that speech has to be more than insisting on something, or making an argument. He modeled speech and a thought process that combines courage and humility, with responsibility and a sense of proportion. As a university community, we continue to engage with these issues. Next week, there will be two high profile lectures. On March 7th, international journalist Gwynne Dyer will speak at 7pm in the Duffy Amphitheatre, and on March 9th, Riad Saloojee of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (Canada) will give a lecture, also in the Duffy Amphitheatre at 7pm.

The measure of whether we are doing the right thing is not the heat of controversy, but whether we are continually building an active, engaged, dynamic and robust learning environment. As debates go on, we can be proud that this is precisely what we are doing at UPEI today.

Sincerely,

H. Wade MacLauchlan
President and Vice-Chancellor

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Free Speech at Risk at UPEI - Letter to the National Post, February 25, 2006

http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=dbba6cd7-7d7c-4bdf-9fd5-17e9423a4097

So Wade MacLauchlan, the president of the University of Prince Edward Island, believes that censoring student newspapers is the best way to prevent potential violence and help his university strive towards "an engaged and positive learning environment."

If there really is the threat of potential violence, it might be slightly more expensive to post the occasional guard outside the Cadre's editorial office than to confiscate student newspapers, but if UPEI can afford to hire campus security guards to ticket illegally parked cars, it can also afford to protect something much more essential to the mandate of the university: free speech.

Andrew Irvine

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Free Speech at Risk at UPEI - Letter to the National Post, February 25, 2006

http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=7405040a-ad1d-4052-9199-92ec299c6961

I found it difficult to believe that the president of a Canadian university would come out so strongly against freedom of the press -- or as Wade MacLauchlan refers to it, "reckless free speech." What I found most offensive, however, was the way he tried to defend himself by using the statement of a P.E.I. Muslim woman that the hurt caused by the cartoons was "as if I had been raped out on the street while the people surrounding me watched."

I'm sure that the woman in question said this in all sincerity even though, according to press reports, she has never seen the cartoons. For someone like Mr. MacLauchlan, however, to endorse the claim that 12 cartoons are equivalent to a public rape is unconscionable.

Steve Lupker

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Campuses Must Uphold Free Speech - Letter to the National Post, February 24, 2006

A letter to the National Post from Walter Bruno
Published: Friday, February 24, 2006
http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/editorialsletters/story

President H. Wade MacLauchlan of the University of Prince Edward Island makes egregious mistakes in his letter responding to the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS) and raises doubts about the integrity of his campus. In effect, he admits to not knowing what debate is, or how to defend it. He makes preposterous analogies and parrots silly hyperbole from an unnamed "P.E.I Muslim woman." His use of smear language ("I expect SAFS would do this, would do that...") is dishonest discourse. How would Dr. MacLauchlan respond to a militant who threatened or blackmailed his campus? I suspect he'd rush to cave in.

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Campuses Must Uphold Free Speech - Letter to the National Post, February 24, 2006

Published: Friday, February 24, 2006
http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/editorialsletters/story.html?id=e5856873-d2a2-4be4-b7a2-93a157457080

After reading and rereading Dr. MacLauchlan's letter in the National Post, I first thought it was a joke -- the outline for a Monty Python script. Then it struck me that he was serious. I can only conclude that Dr. MacLauchlan is a moral coward. God help the students at UPEI under his so-called leadership.

Ralph Awrey, Toronto.

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Campuses Must Uphold Free Speech - Letter to the National Post, February 24, 2006

Campuses must uphold free speech

A letter to the National Post from Doreen Kimura, PhD, FRSC, LLD (Hon), Burnaby, B.C.
Published: Friday, February 24, 2006
http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/editorialsletters/story.html?id=881e49cb-b7d5-44c9-89c4-007c72001a55

President MacLauchlan responded to the SAFS letter by citing the almost 50 deaths worldwide allegedly related to the circulation of the Danish cartoons -- as if this were an expected and defensible consequence of political commentary! Far more offensive cartoons are published in our newspapers daily, some of them with religious themes (e.g., references to the Pope). Arab papers frequently depict Jews and Israelis in horrific and hateful ways. It seems it is only when Muslims are portrayed in unflattering terms that we must be sensitive. Could this be because they are so ready with death threats? The suggestion that it is SAFS that is promoting shouting and disorder is disingenuous indeed.

We in Canada expect people who take offence to express their objections in any number of non-violent ways. Since when, in the politically correct world in which Mr. MacLauchlan seems mired, is killing people deemed a pardonable response? Yet by preventing the circulation of copies of the student newspaper, he tacitly approves violence as a means of influencing the press.

I would respond to the P.E.I. Muslim woman's reaction that the "hurt" is tantamount to her being raped in the street while people watched, by saying, "Get a grip. This is a cartoon!" Giving credence to such an overblown claim is a complete abandonment of common sense. It appears that in his eyes any imagined offence at any utterance, no matter how puerile, automatically trumps freedom of speech.

Mr. MacLauchlan had a great opportunity to demonstrate that freedom of the press and thus of speech is an important value at UPEI. Instead, he has done a grave disservice to his university and to public discourse generally.

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Letter from H. Wade MacLauchlan, President of UPEI, to Clive Seligman, President of SAFS, February 21, 2006

Published in the National Post, as a Letter to the Editor, February 23, 2006

Published in University of Toronto News Digest, February 23, 2006:
http://www.news.utoronto.ca/inthenews/archive/2006_02_23.html

Posted on the official website of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship:
http://www.safs.ca/issuescases/maclauchlanresponse.html

Dear Dr. Seligman,

The Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship misjudges or deliberately minimalizes the harm arising from the publication of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

SAFS favours publishing the cartoons despite the fact that there have now been almost 50 deaths world-wide, including more than 25 on the weekend of February 18. SAFS would say these events are far removed from UPEI’s campus -- in effect, that we are free to engage in reckless free speech in Canada because we have a tolerant, civil society. Perhaps that was the thinking of the Danish cartoonist.

How would SAFS respond to a PEI Muslim woman who describes the hurt caused by the cartoons to be “as if I had been raped out on the street while the people surrounding me watched.”? I expect SAFS would say that she should develop a thicker skin. UPEI takes seriously these feelings of hurt and humiliation, as well as those of Muslim students and colleagues at UPEI and the broader Muslim community on PEI and across Canada.

The SAFS letter fails to credit the UPEI Student Union with a leadership role in the withdrawal of the Cadre. The Student Union withdrew support for publication of the cartoons and, as owner of the paper, asked for its return, acknowledging Awe must take into account the overwhelming reaction that these cartoons have caused worldwide.

While SAFS appears to prefer an academic environment where shouting and disorder are barometers of freedom, I believe we must continually strive for an engaged and positive learning environment. Universities must become ever better and richer places of learning and animated debate. The discourse on our campuses, including what we model for our students and future leaders, should include speaking and listening (which includes respect), courage and curiosity (which includes humility), discretion and a sense of proportion.

At UPEI, there are ongoing animated debates about the cartoons, about press freedom and responsibility, about the intensely integrated nature of our global community, and about the quality of the tolerant, dynamic and robust community that we enjoy and must continue to build. Today, in the aftermath of the cartoon controversy, Muslim students at UPEI tell me that they are engaging with other students about their religious beliefs. The Cadre will appear this week with a full debate (including an interview with myself). Students will hold a colloquium to reflect on issues of expression and diversity raised by the controversy. Professors and students are actively talking about all of the issues, in and out of class.

I am absolutely convinced that the climate on campus at UPEI and the quality of our debates are much the richer today than they would be if the cartoons were still in circulation. Apparently, SAFS would say that I am overstepping my bounds as president to act to support this safe and positive learning climate. With respect, I disagree.

Sincerely, H. Wade MacLauchlan

President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Prince Edward Island

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

With Every Right Comes Responsibility - Letter to the Charlottetown Guardian, Tuesday, February 21, 2006

With every right comes responsibility
By Koli Hoogeveen

Letter to the Charlottetown Guardian, Tuesday, February 21, 2006

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/index.cfm?sid=1584&sc=11


Editor:

Recently I presented a letter of thanks and gratitude to Wade MacLauchlan, president of UPEI, for his commendable performance of leadership in handling the issues involving the controversial cartoons. Recent events perturbed me as any incident of violent crime, discrimination, hatred and war perturbs me, regardless of who the perpetrators are.

Throughout history, we observe that there are dire consequences of one’s reckless acts. I wonder why people resort to adversity since there is no reward for it. It was claimed that printing of the demeaning cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, (pbuh) was done to exercise the freedom of press and expression. I am a firm believer in freedom of rights. With every right comes great responsibility. Rights empower our very existence when it is exercised with wisdom and respect. Rights are not to be abused as one pleases. The question is, can freedom of expression be justified, when it violates the freedom of right to live in peace, sanctity and security without discrimination and dehumanization. Isn’t there a right to be represented as a respectable member of the society? Muslim doesn’t mean ‘terrorist’— it means one ‘who willfully submits to the will of God’.

Like many others, I suffer in silence. It is a feeling of helplessness when the world engages in war and violence, rather than being accountable for wrong choices and assuming peaceful resolutions. People get divided into little camps of hostility and innocent people suffer as collateral damage. How can we find the ways to build a bridge of trust to bring about understanding, compassion and closer ties between people who are waiting at opposite ends of the bridge?

Mr. MacLauchlan’s stand on doing what is right and the UPEI student union’s positive action through its apology shed the light onto the answer. It was very empowering for all the decent, peace-loving people, along with me.

Their wisdom set the precedence of integrity, courage and liberty. These commendable acts did not make anyone small or compromise anyone’s freedom who strives for peace. I hope we all can take the step towards that positive direction.

Contents of the two-page letter of thanks to Mr. Wade MacLauchlan can be accessed at www.upei.ca/letter

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Muslim Woman Praises UPEI's Handling of Cartoon Controversy, Charlottetown Guardian, February 16, 2006

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Letter to H. Wade MacLauchlan from S. Qudsia (Koli) Hoogeveen, February 15, 2006

From the official website of the University of Prince Edward island:
http://www.upei.ca/letter/

UPDATE, March 1, 2006: The following letter has been removed from the official UPEI website, but it can still be accessed at a variety of other sites, including:

http://antontraversa.gettranslated.com/?p=80

http://thelondonfog.blogspot.com/2006/02/take-blindfold-off.html

http://soapbox22.blogspot.com/2006/02/latest-canadian-islamic-conference.html

http://www.blogger.com/publish-comment.do?blogID=20251092&postID=114002850659940820&r=ok


In the name of God, the most Gracious, the Most Merciful: A Letter of Thanks


February 15, 2006

H. Wade MacLauchlan, President
University of Prince Edward Island
550 University Avenue
Charlottetown PE

Dear Mr. MacLauchlan,

With my utmost sincerity and deep appreciation, I, Koli Hoogeveen, of Prince Edward Island, on behalf of all Muslims and non-Muslims alike, who are deeply moved and grateful along with me, take pleasure in expressing gratitude and extending my heartfelt thanks to you. I commend you in recognition of your quick action to remove from circulation, the recent edition of The Cadre, which was also followed by the offering of apologies by the Student Union of UPEI. It was an honourable response at a time of crisis, which currently shakes the world with unrest, mistrust and even death.

Mr. MacLauchlan, I congratulate you for taking a giant step and making a significant contribution towards promoting compassion and peace through your thoughtful, prompt and very timely intervention to prevent the circulation of the controversial cartoons depicted on the University's student newspaper, The Cadre. It was very honourable on your part to stand up to do what is right. Your action has set a great example of integrity, courage, justice, and wisdom, as befits a strong chief administrator of an educational institution.

I am a widow and a mother, living in Prince Edward Island for the past 25 years. I am a pious Muslim woman who is peace-loving and cares for humanity. I was suffering the pain in silence, inflicted upon me by the acts of slander, discrimination, ridicule and insults involving the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, who had passed away more than fourteen hundred years ago. As according to 'The Quran', the unique book of revelation from our Creator, Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was sent by God as a total embodiment of mercy. He was like a lamp for all the oppressed and lost people, sunken in darkness, without any hope, faith, fairness, equality and justice. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was obedient and dutiful to the Creator. He strove hard and persevered to carry out the messages of God to all, which was entrusted on him. He crossed many barriers, struggled very hard to reach out to all with kindness, compassion, honesty and with wisdom. He had denounced all acts of violence, imprudence and discrimination by the leave of God. He had persevered to bring the assurance and glad tidings that indeed, there is one God, a divine superpower, who loves and cares about His creation, Who has enjoined all that is good and forbade what is bad and harmful. As God says, "Verily, My mercy prevails over my wrath."

Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) lead people towards the light of hope for a wholesome happy life with peace, purity, harmony and justice.

He is no longer with us, but he has left a great gift of knowledge, the book of 'Quran' for us, which was revealed to him by God. We, the Muslims of the world, hold fast onto this great gift very faithfully, as we hold Mohammed (pbuh), the Prophet of God, in our heart very dearly.

Portraying demeaning cartoons of such great human beings, be they Mohammed, Jesus, Moses, John, David, Abraham, Noah, and all the God's chosen messengers, Peace and Blessings be on each and everyone of them; lacks taste, is hurtful and definitely not amusing or right. What purpose do cartoons such as these really serve, but to promote hate, contempt, and discrimination, to insult and to offend the people who love and trust those great prophets and follow their paths?

The purpose of a cartoon as understood, is to make clean fun using good taste and humour, to give amusement, bring laughter and to make a very subtle, educated, and witty statement. But surrounding these cartoons, do we see any one of the billion of Muslims of the world, laughing? On the contrary, it has hurt the feelings and offended billions of people of the world, including even those who are not of Muslim faith, but those who are decent and peace-loving, simple human beings, as are Muslims.

It was claimed that these cartoons were depicted to exercise freedom of expression and freedom of the press. But, can these freedoms be justified, while they violate the freedom of rights of billions of people of the world? And these rights are -- rights to live in peace with humility and respect, rights to live with security, as a Muslim, without being discriminated or portrayed unjustly and falsely, and the right to recognize that the meaning of Muslim is not 'terrorist' but is 'those who willfully submit to the will of God'.

I was hurting, and wondering with all those questions as to how can we find hope and means to build a bridge of trust to bring about understanding, compassion, and closer ties between the people who are waiting at the opposite ends of the bridge?

Thank you very much Mr. MacLauchlan for shedding light onto the answer. Your stand on the issue, which is lurking to destroy the peace and sanctity of humanity, and your attempt and performance to put a stop to it, is commendable -- there is still the chance, and hope, for peace and humanity after all! I hope we all can take steps in that positive direction. I also congratulate the Student Union of UPEI for taking a very positive step by offering their apology. Thank you all very much, you have set an incredible precedence of wisdom for the whole world!

Thanks to you all who strive and make an effort to find a way to peace.

With regards,

S. Qudsia (Koli) Hoogeveen

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Letter from Clive Seligman, President of SAFS, to H. Wade MacLauchlan, President of UPEI, February 13, 2006

An open letter from Dr. Clive Seligman, President of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS), to Wade MacLauchlan, President, the University of Prince Edward Island, February 13, 2006

Published in the National Post, February 16, 2006

Posted on the official website of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship: http://www.safs.ca/issuescases/maclauchlan.html

Published in University of Toronto News Digest, February 23, 2006:
http://www.news.utoronto.ca/inthenews/archive/2006_02_23.html

Dear President MacLauchlan:

I am writing to you as president of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship. We are a national organization of university faculty members and interested others who are dedicated to the defence of academic freedom and reasoned debate. For further information, please visit our website at www.safs.ca.

We are writing to strongly protest the actions of the UPEI administration in seizing copies of the student newspaper, The Cadre (issue dated February 8), and preventing their distribution. UPEI's public statement of February 8 that censorship of The Cadre can be justified "on grounds that publication of the caricatures represents a reckless invitation to public disorder and humiliation" is contrary to the duty of all university presidents to maintain their campuses as places where debate of controversial issues may take place. Fear of possible ‘mob action’ must not be allowed to dictate to UPEI or any other Canadian university what ideas its students and faculty may express, disseminate and debate. By censoring this debate at your campus rather than taking the necessary steps to provide appropriate security to allow debate to happen, you have encouraged the view that the threat of violence, real or imagined, is an effective way to challenge ideas with which one disagrees.

The decision as to what is to be included in a newspaper must be made by the editorial board, based on their understanding of the newsworthiness of the story. Those who disagree with the newspaper's coverage or viewpoint can register their opposition through writing letters to the editor, demonstrating, or simply by refusing to read the paper or to advertise in it. Disagreeable speech should be countered by opposing arguments. Censorship is not an acceptable response to the expression of contrary opinions, and especially not on a university campus. Sending the campus police to confiscate copies of the student newspaper is an overreaction and a victory for potential censors who seem to have intimidated the administration of UPEI.

UPEI has given the impression that vigorous debate is to be avoided whenever offence may be taken, or at the very least that such debate is to occur only on terms decided by the university administration. Surely, this is not the image of UPEI that you want to promote.

We call on you to reverse your decision and to let The Cadre do its job.

Sincerely,
Clive Seligman
President

CC: Ray Keating, Editor, The Cadre

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