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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Maryam Namazie no-platformed at the University of Warwick

Maryam Namazie makes an essential point at the end of her chapter in 50 Voices of Disbelief (the book that I co-edited with Udo Schuklenk, published in 2009). It is, she insists, crucially important that we be free to criticise and ridicule religion, including Islam, and particularly political Islam:
Offensive or not, Islam and political Islam must be open to all forms of criticism and ridicule, particularly in this day and age. Not a second passes without some atrocity being committed by this movement. It hangs people from cranes and lamp posts, it stones people to death—in the twenty-first century—with the law even specifying the size of the stone to be used; it murders girls in cold blood at their school gates. It must be criticized and ridiculed because that is very often all that a resisting population has to oppose it. That is how, throughout history, reaction has been pushed back and citizens protected. And so it must again.
This is the sort of view that has apparently led to Namazie being no-platformed by the student body at the University of Warwick. But we must be free to put such views.

Maryam Namazie should be able to speak without impediment. She has an important viewpoint that warrants expression and discussion.

More generally, no-platformings and disinvitations have become a plague (and an embarrassment) at universities. Can they ever be justified? Yes, I can think of circumstances where they might be. I'm not an absolutist about this. I can think of one case, several years ago, where I supported a campaign for a disinvitation, and I can't work up too much guilt about it. I.e. it wasn't a bad call in the circumstances applying back then.

But in the social and political environment of 2015, when the whole business of no-platforming and "disinvitation season" has become such a problem, I would be unwilling to muddy the waters and support a disinvitation except if the most exceptional and extreme situation arose (e.g. someone blatantly inciting acts of violence). The priority right now is pretty much - just stop doing this.

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