UC-Berkeley Professor Hatem Bazian demands that Bill Maher be disinvited from speaking at his university. Above, Bazian addresses an anti-Israel rally on July 20, 2014, appearing in front of a man carrying a sign saying "We captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza". (Image source: YouTube video screenshot)
UC-Berkeley Professor Hatem Bazian demands that Bill Maher be disinvited from speaking at his university. Above, Bazian addresses an anti-Israel rally on July 20, 2014, appearing in front of a man carrying a sign saying “We captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza”. (Image source: YouTube video screenshot)

The Free Speech Movement seems to have evolved into its opposite, a censorship by others or of oneself, disguised as political correctness.

Bazian is in the forefront of the movement to prevent Bill Maher from speaking on campus. Bazian himself however, seems to like being unrestrained when he wants to speak.

Apparently to Bazian, Jewish money promotes undue influence, but Saudi money has no Wahhabi fundamentalist strings attached. Maybe Bazian should ask whether there is something in Islam that causes so many of its adherents to cast non-Muslims as “the other.”

The organized Muslim groups have not exactly embraced Freedom of Speech or Assembly as primary values.

Each year, the University of California hosts a lecture in honor of Mario Savio. On December 2, 1964, Mario Savio stood on the steps of Berkeley’s Sproul Hall and launched into an unrehearsed speech, often considered one of the best 100 of the century. The speech would make him the voice of what became known as the Free Speech Movement.

Throughout Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement [FSM] represented a strong part of Berkeley’s historic and cultural identity.

The FSM, however, seems to have evolved into its opposite, a censorship by others or of oneself, disguised as political correctness. It is an ideology that makes sensitivity to the feelings of the “previously excluded” trump basic rights.

The tension between what the FSM was and what it became has now come to a head in the most recent of Berkeley’s conflicts over the role of free speech. The conflict arose from the invitation to television personality Bill Maher to give the address for this December’s graduation.

Maher is no stranger to political controversy. Ironically, it is Maher’s controversial positions that undoubtedly led to his invitation; the December 20th commencement will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the FSM.

In early October, on his show, Real Time, Maher said that liberals support the rights of gays, lesbians, and women, but refuse to stand up for those rights when supporting them also means criticizing aspects of Islam.

In a heated exchange with the actor Ben Affleck, Maher said that the reason we do not hear from moderate Muslims is because they are afraid to speak up, and that Islam is the only religion that acts like the Mafia. (He did not qualify his remark.) Maher went on to say that radical Muslims are not just a group of outliers, and that according to a Pew Poll, about 90% of Muslims in Egypt believe that death is an appropriate punishment for apostasy.

Maher’s “free speech” was apparently too much for the organized Muslim student groups at Berkeley. They launched a petition to get Maher’s invitation rescinded. Although Maher was attacked for tarring all Muslims with the same brush, anyone who bothered to view the roughly ten-minute segment of the show would note the obvious: Maher went to great lengths to say that he was condemning ideas and only those people who held these ideas, not all Muslims.

Apparently, no one has come forward to refute Maher’s citation of the Pew poll, or remind these students that apostates such as human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali need round-the-clock protection from radical Muslims.

If, for example, 90% of Brazilians believed that anyone leaving the Christian faith should be punished by death, surely this view would prompt legitimate criticism of the theology that implanted those ideas. After all, are we Americans not constantly asked to look inward at the consequences for others of our own beliefs and behavior?

This, ironically, is the theme of Berkeley senior lecturer Hatem Bazian’s course on Islamophobia. The course focuses on how Americans indiscriminately cast Muslims as “the other.”

Bazian is in the forefront of the movement to prevent Maher from speaking on campus. Bazian himself, however, seems to like being unrestrained when he wants to speak. At a 2004 anti-war rally in San Francisco, he called for an American Intifada (violent uprising). At that event, Bazian said, “…we’re sitting here and watching the world pass by, people being bombed, and it’s about time that we have an Intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here.” He went on to promise, “They’re gonna say, ‘some Palestinian being too radical’ — well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet!”

Written by: ABRAHAM H. MILLER – continue at GATESTONE INSTITUTE

By

3 thoughts on “Free Speech v. Political Correctness”

Leave a Reply