Phi Beta Cons

The Debate That Wasn’t

Eugene Volokh points out a curious article in the Tufts Daily that reports on a five-person panel charged with debating the Mohammad cartoon controversy. The event seems to have been well-attended (as these things go) and was sponsored by sundry campus groups, including Americans for Informed Democracy, the International Relations department, the Peace and Justice Studies department, and the Muslim Student Association.
It seems that each of the five panelists was against the publication of the cartoons, and each shared his strikingly congruent reason why. As Professor Volokh writes, when a college seeks to discuss a controversial press freedom issue, “it makes sense to include the cartoons’ defenders as well as their critics.” So much for debate.
It also makes sense to include people who have seen the cartoons as published. One of the panelists, Khalid Hasan, a Pakistani correspondent for the Daily Times of Lahore, is quoted as having said, “There were cartoons about Dick Cheney shooting somebody, but at least those had a context. I have never heard of cartoons without a context; why would they commission these cartoons unless they intended to provoke?”
This is only conjecture, but those seem to be the words of someone who has not been paying attention to this situation. No context? The cartoons were expressly commissioned to border an article on the dangers of self-censorship. One of the featured cartoons was of a cartoonist looking over his shoulder in fear as the beginnings of a Mohammad drawing form on his easel. And even if the cartoons’ context is ignored, which Hasan admits is a bad idea, then you are left with drawings which editorialize on radical Islam, the editorial point being that it abuses a holy name for violence. Islamists Q.E.D.’d it all by themselves.

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